The state of Minnesota has apparently given up the search for the allegedly missing 133 ballots in a Minneapolis precinct.  The precinct itself never reported the ballots missing, but instead told the Secretary of State that they had likely counted 133 ballots twice by accident on Election Night.  The decision will allow Minnesota to finally end its recount and certify the results over the objection of Al Franken, who will remain behind Norm Coleman in the Senate race:

The missing 133 ballots in a Minneapolis precinct are going to stay missing – at least for now.

City spokesman Matt Laible said today that officials had suspended the search for the ballots that began after they turned up missing in the waning hours of last week’s U.S. Senate recount.

The matter will be turned over to the state Canvassing Board, which will decide whether the 133 will be officially counted, Laible said.

The ballots at issue are from the Dinkytown neighborhood, a heavily Democratic area, and a comparison of Election Day results and recount totals indicates that not counting them could cost Franken a net of 46 votes. That has prompted his campaign to complain loudly about the disappearance. The campaign of Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, however, expressed skepticism that the ballots were truly lost.

After the discovery of the ballots’ disappearance Wednesday, city elections officials scoured the warehouse in northeast Minneapolis where the recount was conducted, on the belief that the ballots, in a single envelope, had made it from the church to the warehouse.

The Star Tribune shows Coleman with a 192-vote lead, but that doesn’t include the new numbers from the Dinkytown precinct.  With the recount, Coleman would lead by 238, which is better than his Election Day lead, with the ballot challenges yet to be heard.  Franken’s team withdrew another 425 of those challenges today, lowering their number by over 1,000 since the beginning of the week.

Franken got more bad news from the counties.  Despite an advisory from DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, several counties have refused to sort through the rejected absentee ballots to look for any rejected for non-statutory reasons.  Even some who had started to make a “fifth pile” ended that effort on the advice of their attorneys, who counseled the counties that doing so could constitute preferential behavior in the absence of a court order.

It’s increasingly clear that Franken won’t win the recount.  Now, without the possibility of reaching 60 Democratic seats in the Senate, Harry Reid won’t have much motivation to make war in the Senate next year in an attempt to seat Franken.  The Wall Street Journal discussed this last night:

This may be headed for court, but it’s no longer likely that Franken will find a judge willing to overturn an election for him.