Officials trying to determine who won the November 4 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota recessed their deliberations on Tuesday until the end of the year without reaching a decision.

Unofficial counts showed one-time comedian Al Franken, a Democrat, leading Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman by less than 50 votes out of more than 2.4 million ballots cast.

The Minnesota secretary of state’s office said the next meeting of the state canvassing board was scheduled for December 30 with additional sessions, if needed, on January 5 and 6.

A number of absentee ballots are still in dispute and being examined at the county level in the last Senate election still to be decided.

The development made it likely that the Minnesota seat will be vacant when the new U.S. Congress assembles in Washington on January 6.

The Democrats will be in control of the Senate with at least 57 seats in the 100-seat chamber.

In addition to Minnesota, no appointment has been made to fill the Illinois seat of President-elect Barack Obama because of a political corruption scandal involving the state’s governor, Rod Blagojevich.

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