(CNSNews.com) - The political “hard right” is trying to intimidate voting officials in Minnesota who are conducting a recount of the Senate race between Democratic challenger Al Franken and incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, on Thursday.
But the Coleman campaign told CNSNews.com in a statement that the Franken campaign is trying to use the recount, which is mandated by Minnesota law in such close races, to illicitly affect the outcome of the election.
By Thursday afternoon, Coleman maintained an unofficial lead of 206 votes out of 2.88 million cast in the state’s election for U.S. Senate. The race, one of three Senate contests in the nation still undecided, is important, because if Democrats win all three races they will capture a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
“The right wing has worked itself into a lather in a clear attempt to intimidate election officials from doing their job,” said Schumer at a press conference near the Capitol in Washington. “Minnesota law requires a recount, but it seems like the hard right wing of America, the hard right wing of the Republican Party, has a different idea.”
Cullen Sheehan, Coleman’s campaign manager, said in a statement that the campaign is “troubled” by dramatic and unnatural shifts that are occurring in the counting process.
“The Franken campaign is shamelessly trying to strong-arm local officials into counting invalid ballots in order to influence the outcome of the recount,” said Sheehan. “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.”
Sheehan is referring to the fact that Coleman’s lead, which stood at 725 votes on the morning of Nov. 5, has diminished to 206 votes, as apparently uncounted ballots from the state’s 87 counties have been added to the tally.
Schumer, however, said any suggestion that “fishy” ballots are being counted is false.
“The claims that something is fishy here are just belied by history,” Schumer told CNSNews.com. “There is nothing improbable or even unprecedented about a shift in a few hundred votes in the canvas process. The shifts that occurred this year are actually smaller than what has happened in previous years.”
If the state of Minnesota is unable to produce a definitive winner after the recount, the Senate could ultimately decide which candidate won the race – or that neither had won.
Schumer, however, told CNSNews.com that he is unwilling to discuss that possibility until the recount is over.
Schumer added that while he thinks it is still unlikely that Democrats will win 60 seats in the Senate, he thinks that the 57 they have already gained is enough to “move the country forward.”
The official statewide recount of ballots is set to begin some time next week.