They should be considered, but not by us.
That was the state Canvassing Board’s message Wednesday when it turned down a request by Al Franken’s campaign to include rejected absentee ballots in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate recount.
Jurists on the Canvassing Board said they lack authority to order rejected absentee ballots to be included. But board members also expressed concern some valid votes may not have been counted, and they indicated counties could be asked to sort through rejected absentee ballots in preparation for a probable court action.
“Irregularities, if any, in the handling of those absentee ballots can be addressed through the election challenge process provided by law,” said board member and Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson, who made the motion to reject Franken’s request.
Added Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin: “We do not have the authority to review rejected absentee ballots. That’s the bottom line.”
The Canvassing Board’s one-hour deliberation came as local election officials continued recounting the 2.9 million U.S. Senate votes around Minnesota.
Unofficial returns released Wednesday night showed Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman’s lead over Democrat Franken at 292, which is up from 238 a night earlier. The lead was figured based ballots recounted and applied to Coleman’s 215-vote margin before the recount started last week.
Local elections officials have recounted 86 percent of the ballots, with some counties not even starting to count until next week.
The secretary of state’s figures show Coleman leads 1,044,255 to 1,040,285 in the raw vote so far in the recount, but 4,740 ballots challenged by one campaign or the other are not included in those vote totals.
Those mounting numbers of challenged ballots and more than 12,000 rejected absentee ballots are more than enough to decide the election.