By Pat Doyle and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

In early counting, Republican Tom Emmer's representatives are racking up the challenges.

According to Hennepin County election manager Rachel Smith, shortly after the recount began the Emmer representatives started filing an increasing number of challenges to would-be Mark Dayton votes that table judges deemed frivolous.

In some precincts "every third or fourth ballot" was challenged by the Emmer camp, Smith said.

In Washington County, an Emmer representative challenged a ballot that appeared blank for the governor's office, saying that should be counted as an Emmer vote.

A local recount official declared that challenge "frivolous."

Dayton lawyer David Lillehaug, asked about reports of frivolous challenges by Emmer representatives, showed a reporter a copy of a ballot from a Minnetonka precinct that an Emmer representative challenged because the oval was not completely filled in. The ovals appeared to almost completely blacked out and the challenge was deemed frivolous.

But Emmer attorney Tony Trimble said the campaigns challenges were solid.

"We have great challenges," said Trimble, who is watching the count in Hennepin County. He said he "wouldn't even hazard a guess" at how many have been filed.

In the state's second largest county, there were few challenges but most of them came from the Emmer camp, said Ramsey County election manager Joe Mansky.

At the lunch hour, only five challenges had been filed in Ramsey County after about 20,000 ballots had been recounted. Four of those five came from the Emmer camp, Mansky said, and none of them were frivolous.

At one point, Mansky and Emmer campaign attorney Michael Toner closely studied a ballot with a small black dot being the only indication that the voter intended to cast the ballot for Dayton.

"How have you handled that in the past?" Toner asked. "We've counted them as votes," replied Mansky. "I'd like to keep that on the challenged (pile)," said Toner.

At that rate they were going in Ramsey County, Mansky estimated a total of 100 to 150 challenges in the county by the time their counting finishes up on Friday. That would compare to roughly 550 challenges in the county during the 2008 U.S. Senate recount. The county had about 80,000 more ballots to recount in 2008 than it does this year.

In Dakota County, so far, recounts in most precincts have drawn few if any challenges. It appeared that most of the questions are coming from Emmer's recount team. In Washington county, 11 challenges were made by noon, all by the Emmer campaign. Another four, all by the Emmer campaign, were considered frivolous, said Kevin Corbid, elections director for the county.

Meanwhile, according to the Dayton recount team's Twitter account, Red Lake, Lincoln and Wilkin county had completed their counting by Monday morning shortly after the small counties began counting.

Some larger counties will take a little longer.

Kevin Boyle of Dakota County said the county hoped to finish its count by Thursday afternoon.

-- Katie Humphrey, Mike Kaszuba and Kevin Giles contributed to this report