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Minneapolis/St. Paul Star-Tribune

Franken Now Just 206 Votes Behind

Patricia Lopez and Kevin Duchschere

Al Franken speaks to supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota November 4, 2008. (Eric Miller/Reuters)

The Coleman and Franken campaigns traded shots Monday as counties completed the process of certifying their vote tallies and officials prepared to start recounting nearly 3 million ballots in the U.S. Senate race.

Six days after the election, unofficial results showed Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leading Democratic challenger Al Franken by 206 votes, a difference of about 1/100th of 1 percent that sets the stage for the automatic hand recount that will begin next week.

Monday was the deadline for counties to certify their results. Depending on the unknown number that may not have yet reported them to the state, that 206 figure could still change before the state Canvassing Board meets next week to certify the official total. Only then will the recount begin.

Officials with Hennepin County forwarded their tally Monday to the secretary of state's office, showing that, since initial results Wednesday, Franken's total had increased by 55 votes and Coleman's by 27 in the state's largest county.

Adjustments in the vote tallies because of misplaced figures and other errors have been limited to 22 of the state's 87 counties, according to an analysis of the fluctuations from Wednesday to Monday.

Since the preliminary Election Day numbers, Franken's biggest gains were in Lake County, where he added 246 votes, and in Pine and St. Louis counties, where he picked up 100 in each.

Coleman's biggest gain was in Ramsey County, 29 votes, but that was more than canceled out by an additional 41 votes there for Franken. Coleman's biggest drop was 124 votes in Anoka County, where Franken also lost 90 votes.

Meanwhile, both campaigns spent much of the day fencing over exactly how to secure the ballots that will be recounted and possibly laying the groundwork for further legal challenges.

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