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Scott Wente, Published February 27 2009

Franken drops Becker County ballot claim

ST. PAUL – Becker County officials will not have to explain their unusual handling of a group of ballots in the U.S. Senate election trial.

Al Franken’s campaign today dropped its objection to the inclusion of 61 ballots from the northwestern Minnesota county in the Senate recount.

The Democrat’s campaign recently raised concerns about how county officials handled those ballots, which were misplaced for a few days beginning election night. The campaign also claimed it was not told of that problem until after the ballots were counted for the first time during the statewide recount.

That issue was among several Franken’s campaign had prepared to bring before the trial’s three-judge panel when it begins to make its case in the proceeding next week.

“We made a decision for the sake of judicial efficiency and keeping the election contest on track and moving that we would agree to withdraw the Becker County claim if it was going to be the source of delay and consternation,” Franken attorney Marc Elias said.

Coleman netted 22 votes out of that pile of 61 ballots, Franken’s campaign said.

Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen has said that on election night the ballots were mistakenly placed in a box that was not moved to an election center, where ballots are stored, until the stack of ballots were found a few days later.

The ballots then were stored securely until the recount, when state officials advised Becker County’s election crew that it could count those ballots, Tangen said.