From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Carrie Dann
The next step in the Minnesota Senate race recount is to count the rejected absentee ballots -- estimated to number between 1,000 and 1,600.
Democratic challenger Al Franken's campaign wants to count 1,346 rejected ballots, but incumbent Republican Norm Coleman's campaign wants to count just 136 of them.
Counties and the campaigns must and agree on the number of what they believe are the mistakenly rejected absentee ballots, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last week. The Coleman campaign had tried to prevent the ballots from being counted at all.
The agreed upon number of ballot have to be sent to the secretary of state's office by Jan. 2nd, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the secretary of state's office then has until Jan. 4th to count them and send them to the state Canvassing Board to be included in the vote total.
"If there is disagreement on the number of improperly rejected ballots, the counties and campaigns will try to resolve their differences at meetings next week," the Star Tribune wrote. "Twelve regional meetings are scheduled throughout the state and will be open to the public."
But this latest objection by the Coleman campaign throws a wrench in that process.
Coleman had led by about 200 votes after voting on Nov. 4th, but Franken made up the ground to take a lead -- albeit extremely narrow -- after the initial recount by the Canvassing Board wrapped up last week. The Franken camp now claims a 46-vote lead.
Klobuchar wants a senator
Citing an "uptick" in constituent services requests, the current only Minnesota senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, called for a senator to be seated as soon as the Canvassing Board declares a winner.
"If the Canvassing Board declares a winner, that should be our senator," she said, even if a court challenge were to follow. "[The Senate] could seat a senator pending the litigation."
Klobuchar wanting someone seated right away may seem convenient to Republicans, since Franken appears to be currently ahead. Democrats, though, believe she will have an influential voice on the ultimate outcome.
'Rejected' voters' personal appeals
Also, there could have some fun stories ahead as this recount veers further and further into potential delays. The Star Tribune notes: "Voters whose ballots are not accepted by one or both candidates will be notified that a candidate blocked them and that they can appeal in court."
In theory, then a "Lizard People" or "Ballot with Wings" voter could go to court to make a political statement, saying that their intent was misinterpreted. Yet another reason this thing could drag on into February.
By the way, our 2000 Recount End Date Watch has climbed to: 16 days. (The 2000 recount ended on Dec. 13th.)