Minnesota’s Canvassing Board began reviewing ballot challenges yesterday, working its way through some of the 440 ballots challenged by the Al Franken campaign.  At the end of the day, though, Norm Coleman had increased his lead by almost a hundred ballots, and the board has yet to begin tackling his challenges in any significant amount.  Coleman in fact began adding challenges back into the pile after seeing the decisions by the board:

On Day 1, Tuesday, the board reviewed and ruled on the admissibility of about 160 Election Day ballots among the more than 1,400 ballots being challenged by the two campaigns.

Board members began Tuesday by taking up 440 or so ballots challenged by Franken. The board has yet to dive into challenges made by the Coleman campaign, which numbered roughly 1,000 before word surfaced that it planned to restore about 200 of those it had previously withdrawn.

Although an official number of upheld challenges wasn’t available, it appeared that rate was relatively high, given that many experts consider sustained challenges to be rare. Franken’s 22-vote pickup reflected a degree of success for him, and at least some of the 41 votes awarded to neither candidate were ones that would have gone to Coleman.

Yesterday I spoke with people close to the Coleman effort on background.  Originally, they thought that Franken had pulled back on hundreds of challenges, but discovered that Franken’s team kept them as provisional challenges instead.  That fact, plus the unexpectedly generous nature of the board in upholding challenges, pushed the Coleman campaign into reinstating some of their previous challenges of Franken votes.

The mood for Team Coleman seems tense.  They expect that any consistent application of standards to challenged ballots favors them.  The nightmare scenario for Republicans is if the board becomes capricious and arbitrary in its challenge decisions.  At the moment, they see the board acting with reasonable consistency, but this will be a long process, and they’re on the edge of their seats.

At the moment, the Star Tribune has Coleman up by 285 votes.  With only another 1400 ballots left to determine, it may be difficult — but not impossible — for Franken to overcome that margin on ballot challenges alone.  The state Supreme Court meets today to hear Team Coleman’s challenge to the board’s “recommendation” regarding review of rejected absentee ballots, and they hope the court will demand a consistent standard on that review, which the board neglected to set.

Consistency appears to be the buzzword of the week here.  We’ll see if we get it.