The state Canvassing Board will wait until Tuesday to meet again to try to determine a winner in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race between DFLer Al Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Sunday that the delay was caused by the amount of time it is taking to reallocate the roughly 5,000 ballot challenges that were withdrawn by the two men.

"We had hoped to finish by Monday," Ritchie said.

Instead, the new vote totals will be presented to the Canvassing Board on Tuesday morning, he said.

According to Star Tribune figures, Franken holds a lead over Coleman of 251 votes. That lead is expected to shrink after the 5,000 challenges are tabulated because Franken challenged about 400 more ballots than Coleman.

The same day, the state Supreme Court will take up the question of whether more than 100 ballots were counted twice, as Coleman contends.

Still at issue is the fate of an estimated 1,600 absentee ballots that were improperly rejected by election judges. The two campaigns and state officials have until Dec. 31 to figure out which of those rejected ballots will be counted.

Ritchie and Franken want only ballots improperly rejected to be counted. Ritchie said there are four criteria for rejecting a ballot and the improperly rejected ones would go into the so-called fifth pile.

Fritz Knaak, Coleman's lead recount attorney, said his client agrees that state law should be followed to determine which rejected ballots are counted.

"On the surface it's easy," he said Sunday. "The question is what goes into that fifth pile?"

The state's Senate election has been up for grabs ever since Coleman declared victory the day after the Nov. 4 election, when his unofficial lead over Franken stood at 725 votes out of nearly 2.9 million cast.

Recounts are required in races with a winning margin of less than one-half of 1 percent, although a losing candidate may request that it not go forward. Coleman and Franken each received 42 percent of the vote, and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley got 15.

Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280