From NBC's Jeff Hanley
The mystery of 'missing ballots' in Minnesota continues to plague both the Norm Coleman and Al Franken campaigns as the Franken campaign claims the margin has narrowed to just 84 votes between the two candidates in the Minnesota Senate.
"The number of lost ballots continues to grow and now totals in the hundreds," Franken lead attorney Marc Elias said in a phone conference today. "We grow more and more concerned that these ballots are missing and appear to be disappearing."
Video: As the recount nears an end in the disputed Minnesota Senate vote between incumbent Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken, the tension increases with each new ballot counted. KARE's John Croman reports.
In an effort to illustrate just where some of these ballots might be hiding, Elias displayed a locked voting machine to on-looking reporters with what appeared to be an undetermined number of jammed ballots stuck in the base of the machine.
"Astonishingly, election officials have refused our request to open that machine," Elias said. "Until that machine is opened, we will not know if that is one ballot, five ballots, whether it's a ballot for Coleman or Franken."
Further complicating the recount effort is the issue of improperly rejected absentee ballots. Following a court order on Nov. 19th, 66 counties released records showing 6,432 absentee ballots had been rejected. That number could potentially double as more information from other counties is released.
The Franken campaign stressed today that they do not believe all 6,000-plus ballots are legitimate, however an incident where a number of ballots were rejected in Minneapolis due to "lack of registration" was proven to be a clerical error. The secretary of state's Web site confirmed that those voters were actually properly registered.
Data that the Franken campaign received on rejected absentee ballots also showed that in Fillmore County, two ballots were not counted, because they were found in the precinct's ballot box after they had already printed their totals.
In another incident, a precinct listed their rejection reason as, "We messed up," after they accidentally placed a legitimate ballot in their reject pile.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: To clarify, this post has been updated to make it clear that the 84-vote number is the Franken campaign's claim.]