01/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Minnesota Recount: Franken Starting To Make Big Gains On Challenged Ballots

For the past few days, the Minnesota State canvassing board has been sifting through the roughly 1,500 ballots challenged by both candidates for U.S. Senate.

Their findings will determine who exactly has won this race -- now several weeks removed from the election. And as things currently stand, Democratic challenger Al Franken seems to be in an increasingly favorable position.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the board went through all the challenges to ballots made by the Franken campaign. These were mostly votes cast for Sen. Norm Coleman that contained enough clerical errors or vague voter intent to merit protest.

Through those approximately 440 challenges, Coleman picked up somewhere in the ballpark of 250 votes. Franken, meanwhile, earned roughly 100 votes (mostly on ballots that were rejected from the count on Election Day but where it was ruled that the voter intended to support the Democratic candidate). Thus, Coleman added approximately 150 votes to his Election Day lead -- itself believed to be roughly 200 votes.

On Thursday, however, the canvassing board made its way to the approximately 1,000 ballots that Coleman had challenged. And the tides have dramatically shifted in Franken's favor. Plowing through the pile of ballots (the board insisted that it will finish this process on Friday afternoon, regardless of how long it has to work on that day) Franken's vote pickup total rose to more than 220 by 12:45 P.M.

As such, it seems increasingly likely that Franken will soon be in the black when it comes to votes gained, and that the gap he faced on Election Day will begin to close. Both the Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune project that Franken will overtake Coleman once this process is ended. And this count doesn't even include the disputed wrongfully rejected absentee ballots that the canvassing board ruled should be added to the final result.

To watch the ongoing canvass board meeting check out uptake.org.

UPDATE: As of 1:30pm, Franken was still making impressive gains in the challenge process. So far, nearly 300 Coleman challenges have been reviewed (as well as all of Franken's challenges) and the Democrat has gained 273 votes. Coleman, meanwhile, has gained 249 votes.

In other words: with roughly 700 Coleman challenges left to review, Franken has already chipped away 24 votes from his lead.