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Coleman lead grows

ST. PAUL - U.S. Senate recount activity slowed on Saturday, with only a handful of locations active.

With 66 percent of the 2.9 million ballots recounted by Saturday night, Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's lead over Democrat Al Franken grew a few votes from Friday to 167, when his 215-vote pre-recount lead is adjusted by the recount totals. His lead had dwindled every day of the recount.

However, challenged ballots continued to be the big story Saturday. Coleman's campaign has challenged 948 ballots so far, while Franken's supporters challenged 945.

The ballot challenges mean a state elections board will have to individually examine each challenged ballot to decide the voter's intent, essentially determining who wins the election.

There likely will be more challenged ballots than there is difference between Coleman and Franken when the recounting ends. The two campaigns can challenge ballots when they question whether elections officials correctly ruled which candidate a voter meant to pick.

The secretary of state's unofficial raw tally of only the recounted precincts showed Coleman ahead by 25,384, with many Democratic areas yet to count. The final difference is expected to be within hundreds.

Fifty-four of Minnesota's 87 counties have finished their recounts. Some counties start this week, and some begin their recounts on Dec. 3.