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Battle for Minnesota Senate continues

With shrinking numbers and tense candidates, the race for Senate in Minnesota continues to get ugly.

The Pioneer Press reported that Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin rejected Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign's request Saturday to stop the counting of 32 Minneapolis absentee ballots that the Coleman campaign say were in a city election official's car Friday night.

Fritz Knaak, attorney for the Coleman campaign said, based on a Saturday hearing, he was assured by the Minneapolis city attorney's office that the ballots in the car should be included in the count. Knaak said it is not the campaign's intention to appeal the judge's decision.

Coleman's campaign said it merely wanted to delay the opening until it could be assured in a future hearing that the ballots were in the continuous possession of election officials, the Star Tribune reported.

Saturday's events portray how complicated and intense the scrutiny of all 2.9 million ballots cast in the still-undecided Senate race will be in the coming weeks. As officials continue to count, the gap between the two continues to shrink.

The race is being recounted because Coleman's lead over Franken is less than 0.5 percent. The number of votes Coleman had over Franken on Nov. 4 is already significantly lower.

As of Nov. 9, Coleman had just a 221-vote advantage.

County officials are to certify the county-level results on Monday of Tuesday's election. A state canvassing board is slated to certify all results Nov. 18, and a hand-recount will begin after that point.

That recount may mean the winner will not be declared until mid- to late December.

Both campaigns say their interest in the process is that all votes are counted accurately.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said the Coleman campaign was trying to cast a cloud over the integrity of the Minnesota election as part of a strategy.

"We did what we had to do," Knaak said Saturday. "There was a real concern that what was going on here was wrong and unfair."