Two hours into the recount at Crystal City Hall, Janet Lewis, the city clerk, spoke into a microphone about the results of the recount in Ward 4, Precinct 2. 453 votes for Sen. Norm Coleman. 629 for Al Franken. 265 ballots for other candidates or for no one at all.
"And there are two missing ballots," she said.
The announcement brought shouts from the observers. "Lock the doors!" "Strip search!"
Lewis speculated that the mystery might actually be the result of election judges running one or both ballots through the machines twice on Election Day, presumably because they jammed the first time. They're not supposed to do that, but it happens, Lewis said.
Nevertheless, the revelation prompted a prolonged huddle by Franken's representatives and legal team.
The occasional hoots weren't a sign of serious tension between the squads of Franken and Coleman supporters. "We're all being cordial to one another," said Robert Brandtjen of St. Paul, who came to Crystal on behalf of Coleman. "I really think the more people who witness this, the better off we'll be."
The Canada geese milling on the grounds and parking lot of Plymouth City Hall were oblivious to the gaggle of election officials and observers inside.
The drone of "Franken" and "Coleman" was accompanied by the swishing of paper in Medicine Lake Room A. Early on, City Clerk Sandy Engdahl had to admonish some candidate representatives from trying to tell her counters how to count. Clearly, she said, the recount watchers are "very passionate," but she had to remind them of everyone's roles in this civic drama.
As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, there was only one challenged ballot in the special envelope in Plymouth. On that ballot, the bubble beside Norm Coleman's name appeared to have both an "X" and a squiggle in it. In Engdahl's view, it was clearly a vote for Coleman, but the Franken campaign wants the state Canvassing Board to rule on whether it should count.
As night fell over Edina City Hall, the recount crew working in the council chambers looked a little ragged, and City Clerk Debra Mangen's patience with some candidate representatives was wearing thin. They had made it through 16 of 20 precincts.
Answering a Coleman rep's concern about rejected absentee ballots, Mangen said that the recount wasn't taking on that issue. Despite that, Mangen said, she's been badgered by the campaigns about it, even getting called at home.
Mangen said the Senate recount benefited from last week's recount in the Edina City Council race. The ballots were all face up, she said.
Just before 5 p.m., workers wheeled two carts loaded with boxed ballots into storage. The recount in Edina resumes at 8:30 a.m. today.
JAMES ELI SHIFFER