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Scott Wente, Published April 08 2009

Franken leads by 312 votes in Senate recount

ST. PAUL – Al Franken took a lead of more than 300 votes today as a three-judge panel counted U.S. Senate absentee ballots that had not been counted before.

The Democrat’s lead over Norm Coleman grew to 312 votes in what could be the final day of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate trial in front of this three-judge panel. However, the case will likely wind up before the Minnesota Supreme Court. Before today, Franken led by 225 votes.

Tuesday’s activity, the only counting done in court, received more attention than any other day in court during seven weeks of testimony. A crowd packed a courtroom generally used by the state Supreme Court.

Franken gained 198 and Coleman 111 votes in today’s count of 351 ballots. Other candidates picked up the rest.

Coleman is seeking to overturn Franken’s 225-vote recount victory, but Franken’s lawyers are optimistic his lead will be upheld and Coleman already has signaled an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The loser in that step could appeal to federal courts.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said legal appeals could delay the seating of Minnesota’s second senator for “a few more months.”

Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or swente@forumcomm.com