By Don Davis
St. Paul Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL - U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman demands election data from county and state officials, with his campaign wondering why vote totals are changing following Tuesday's election.
The campaign was especially concerned about changes on northeast Minnesota's Iron Range.
"Minnesota has a history of fair and clean elections, and we are committed to ensuring that this election is no different," Coleman Campaign Manager Cullen Sheenan said. "That is why it is so troubling to us that instead of the normal slight changes in vote totals one would expect during this process, we are now seeing huge chunks of votes appearing and disappearing - statistically dubious and improbable shifts that are overwhelmingly accruing to the benefit of Al Franken."
The difference between Coleman and Franken is so narrow that state law dictates there be a recount. That should begin after the state Canvassing Board meets on Nov. 18. A recount could take weeks, much longer if it becomes embroiled in court challenges.
On Friday afternoon, Coleman led Franken by 239 votes. A day earlier, he led by 590. Early Wednesday, the Minnesota secretary of state's office reported Coleman ahead by more than 700.
However, Franken's campaign pointed out that such changes occur in many elections. Two years ago, for instance, thousands of votes changed in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who won, and Republican Mark Kennedy.
State officials say changes occur when elections workers find errors in transcribing vote totals.
Sheenan specifically pointed out changes in Iron Range votes, a place where Democrats usually dominate.
"As many of these unexplained and improbable vote swings are taking place on the Iron Range, we're asking that local and state election officials provide us with the necessary data to reassure the public that the canvassing process has not been tainted," Sheenan said.
Coleman attorneys sent letters to county auditors and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie demanding copies of election-related materials, including tapes vote machines produced showing votes cast.
Attorneys Terry P. Trimble and Matthew W. Haapoja asked for the documents immediately under the state's Data Practices Act.