Election officials in the U.S. state of Minnesota have started recounting votes to determine who will be the next U.S. senator from the Midwestern state.

Workers Wednesday began a hand count of nearly 3 million ballots, in a tight contest between Democrat Al Franken and incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. Heading into the recount, Coleman led by about 200 votes.

If Franken wins, the Democratic Party will have control of 59 Senate seats, just one vote away from majority control, which will allow Democrats to block any Republican effort to stop legislation from advancing to a final vote, a process known as a filibuster. Democrats could gain an additional 60th seat if the Democratic candidate wins a runoff election in the U.S. state of Georgia in early December.

Democrats moved closer to obtaining the filibuster-proof majority after Republican Senate veteran Ted Stevens of the U.S. state of Alaska lost his bid for reelection to Democrat Mark Begich in another tight race.

Stevens, who had served in the Senate since 1968, was convicted on corruption charges last month.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.