Al Franken's Senatorial campaign announced on Monday that it would be withdrawing 425 ballots that it had previously challenged during its recount election against Sen. Norm Coleman.
The move comes a week after the Franken campaign -- clinging to a self-proclaimed four vote lead -- withdrew an additional 600 challenges that they deemed without merit, and a few days after the Coleman camp declared that it would withdraw 650 such challenges. All told, the two campaigns are shortening the field by which either candidate could pick up votes. But Marc Elias, Franken's lead counsel, declined to speculate on how these un-challenged ballots would affect the outcome of the race.
"We are in the process of trying to narrow the universe," he told reporters. "I will note that what we did with our last withdrawal, we have done again today. We are actually providing to you all a list of the ballots that have actually been withdrawn... we are not hiding it from anyone."
The move by the Franken campaign is a curious one, in that it only closes the window through which the Democrat can pull out a win. There remain several thousand ballots that have been challenged by representatives of the Coleman and Franken campaign. How many of these challenges are upheld or overturned will likely determine the victor.
Taking the recount's narrow margin into account, Elias urged officials to redouble their efforts to find all missing ballots or ballots that have been -- for one reason or another -- uncounted. Elias continued to insist that the state reconsider counting improperly challenged absentee ballots. He said the campaign has not been in contact with the United States Senate, who could intervene in the election should they conclude that the non-counting of these ballots is illegal.
Elias also called on local officials to continue their search for 133 missing ballots from a county in Minneapolis -- though he noted that the state would simply certify the Election Day result if these votes went unfound.
"We remain hopeful that these ballots will be found, but we remained pleased that the voters in this precinct will have their votes counted either way," said Elias.