[UPDATED at end of article with today's (Friday's) latest numbers.]
As thousands of challenged ballots from both Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and challenger Al Franken (D) are being decided by the bi-partisan state canvassing board in the U.S. Senate race in MN, AP says it's currently a 2 vote race, out of 2.9 million ballots cast, in favor of Franken.
That said, as all of the challenged ballots are finally counted over the next several days (and weeks), the lead could go back and forth a bit each night. The Star-Tribune, which puts today's margin at 5 votes in favor of Coleman, currently projects that Franken will ultimately win by 89 votes...
How the Strib comes to that final projection is unknown, as the MN Supreme Court ruled today that some 1600 incorrectly rejected absentee ballots --- never counted --- should now be counted. Those ballots are believed to likely favor Franken if they ever actually get counted. The Coleman camp had tried to keep that from happening by taking the the matter to the Supremes in a FL 2000-style gambit to try and stop the counting of ballots.
But the court's decision to allow the counting, as long as both campaigns and SoS Mark Ritchie agree to standards for ballot inclusion, leaves much room for Coleman to continue attempts at blocking the counting of legitimate votes, cast by legitimate voters improperly disenfranchised. Both campaigns claimed "victory" from today's ruling.
Politico reports that "Ritchie, who chairs the five-member Canvassing Board, said Thursday that the board may not finish ruling on disputed ballots until December 30 because of a recent influx of new challenges brought by the Coleman campaign." Though the contest is likely to be in dispute even beyond the end of the year. "Litigation is inevitable," Carleton College political science professor Steve Schier said. "If Franken loses – he’ll argue legitimate votes were not counted. If Coleman loses, he’ll argue illegitimate votes were counted."
All of that said, we're just happy there's something to count...and argue about.
NOTE: We've added the Strib's Senate Recount Widget to our right sidebar for a bit, just below the "Daily Voting News" box, to help keep you up to date. It includes links to their latest numbers and headlines, since we remain on the road, frequently off the grid, and otherwise trying (but largely failing) to follow doctor's orders.
UPDATE 12/19/08: Following today's counting of challenged ballots, Franken is now up by 251 votes, though thousands remain to be determined by the state canvassing board. RAW STORY reports that the Strib's projection of Franken winning by 89 (which has now been updated to Franken by 78) is based on the paper's tallies of all of the 6000 or so challenged ballots, but does not include the 1600 previously rejected absentee ballots. Keep an eye on the Strib's widget (now in our right sidebar as noted) for the latest.