Franken Pulls “Way” Ahead in Recount

Update: Franken is ahead by 249 votes !!!

UPDATE: DONE with the Franken re-entered (some withdrawn) … now looking at some ballots that were set aside earlier.

UPDATE: … bam… the canvassing board just threw out consideration of all the duplicate ballots except seven that have some reasonable ‘on the face’ cases.

UPDATE: The small number of duplicate issue but addressable “on the face” is done.

UPDATE: They are now going through miscellaneous challenges, of which I don’t think there are too many. I think for various reasons that this is going to be mainly reductions in Franken’s lead. We’ll see how much.

UPDATE: OK, the last ballot for the day … no wait, they can’t find it, so they are going to do it Monday. No, wait, Franken lawyer retracts challenge. THEY ARE DONE FOR THE DAY!

Final count should be 249, but it might be 250.

Much remains to be done. This is not over. But nothing will actually happen until Monday.

The alleged duplicate ballots will be challenged in court by Coleman. The Coleman lawyer continues to piss off the board by whining about this.

The last several hundred challenged ballots in the Franken-Coleman Senate race are now being reviewed by the state canvassing board. These are all Coleman challenges, which means that a large number will be Franken votes that Coleman people challenged for some reason or another.

Prior to the start of this day’s work, Franken was behind in the count by about two votes. As I write this, Franken is ahead by 52 votes. This trend is likely to continue as the pile of ballots is gone through.

57 votes.

There remain at least to other matters to settle. One is the question of alleged duplicate ballots that the Coleman camp wants rejected. It may in fact be the case that some ballots were duplicated and both the original and duplicate counted. It is not clear to me how many such votes there may be,There may be about 150 – 200 of these, but I am not sure what removal of these votes from the count would do.

The second issue is the absentee ballots. There are quite a few, possibly between 500 and 1500, absentee ballots that were rejected for invalid reasons. These rejected ballots should really be counted. The Franken camp pushed for this, the Secretary of State agreed and told the counties that they could (but did not necessarily have to) do so, the Coleman camp too this to the State Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ruled, essentially, in favor of looking at these ballots.

A third issue, I have just learned, is that some of the previously withdrawn challenges have not been added back into the count. I did not know this, and I’m not sure it is true (the source is the Star Tribune, not the most reliable of sources, I’m afraid.) As I watch the process, they are in fact counting in the withdrawn ballots, but there may be chunks of ballots that have not been added back in. I’ll let you know what I find out.

The de-challenged ballots that were removed before the Canvassing board started have not been included in the total, or at least, some of them. Still trying to find out how many. The ones that were removed during the canvassing operation itself are being dealt with on the spot.

The consideration of these absentee ballots is generally thought to favor Franken.


  1. #1 quantico
    December 19, 2008


  2. #2 Mike
    December 19, 2008

    Too close to breathe. Thanks for the update Greg. Just for my info, if Franken wins, what are Coleman’s options? Does the board’s certification settle it or is there likely to be endless litigation?

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2008

    You can’t have endless litigation because the US constitution requires that the People of Minnesota get represented in the Senate even if this is not what Coleman wants. He does not get to decide that. The state supreme court has already signaled that December 31st is a kind of deadline by indicating that the Absentee ballot issue will be settled by then. In Minnesota, as you know, we call this the “fish or cut bait” clause. Similarly, I think the canvassing board intends to “fish or cut bait” today.

    What I am not sure about is if the Minnesota Supreme Court is the top dog judicial level here if if this could be taken to Federal Circuit. Probably, but I’m not sure. For that, I need to consult my lawyers. Unfortunately, my lawers are all specialists in Divorce and Commercial Real Estate.

    Ana, as a proto-lawyer (I see you as being a lawyer some day) what is your take on this? Presuming you to exist?

  4. #4 Mike
    December 19, 2008

    Thanks Greg. I’ll await further legal news. I like the fish or cut bait deal. Seems to indicate a possible very happy new year there in MN

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    December 19, 2008

    There’s also the possibility that the Senate will act. It’s unclear whether they need the go-ahead from the state court to do so, but if Coleman decides to push this beyond the state court, I don’t see any reason why the court wouldn’t turn it over to the Senate, particularly since it’s looking like the final count and the Senate would both be in Franken’s favor.

    And remember, any money Coleman spends on challenges he can’t win is money he can’t spend on his legal defense.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2008

    And remember, any money Coleman spends on challenges he can’t win is money he can’t spend on his legal defense.

    Very true. At some point, Pretty Boy Coleman is going to have to fish or cut bait.

  7. #7 Stephanie Z
    December 19, 2008

    Greg, have you seen a recent picture of Coleman? He’s not so pretty anymore. Someone burned the portrait.

  8. #8 TomS
    December 19, 2008

    I gather that, because there was a third candidate, the eventual winner will have won with less than 50% of the vote.

    It strikes me as strange that you will have a “winner take all”, with less than 50% of the total vote, and a small fraction of a percent more than the loser, representing the state for six years, just as much as if there had been a landslide victory.

    Don’t ask me for a better way. I’m just saying that it seems exceedingly strange.

  9. #9 rob
    December 19, 2008

    they should count the valid absentee votes.

    *no matter what*

    if the votes were properly filled out, there is NO reason that they should not be counted. disenfranchising voters because you think they might not have voted your way shows that you are not fit for holding a public office.

    (what they really ought to do is just toss a coin. no matter how much they peruse the ballots and petulantly try to get votes tossed out, the uncertainty is much larger than the projected vote difference. the candidates are tied by any realistic statistical definition.)

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2008

    Greg, have you seen a recent picture of Coleman? He’s not so pretty anymore. Someone burned the portrait.

    I hear the lighting in the Federal Pen is likely to favor his zombie-esque palor.

    Tom: You need to put this in a broader context, in several ways. First, would we instead only send a senator to Washington who wins by some other percentage, like 10%, more than the opponent? What happens the, when two people run and one wins by 8%? A runoff with the same exact candidates does not seem like a good idea.

    The three way race is always an issue. When we have a three way race, we usually have a split like this. Many, many, many, many elections at all levels work out this way. This has been the case for a number of presidential candidates, and seems to have become the norm for Minnesota governor. I don’t see what is fundamentally wrong with an electoral system in which a person wins but not with a majority. There is nothing special about the majority. It is not the case that “Democracy” = “Majority rule.” That is a phrase often used, but it is more of a slip of the tongue than a meaningful philosophical statement.

    In this particular case, I would note that chances are if the third party candidate was not running, this would be settled wihtoiut a recount and Franken would be the Senator.

    By the way, there were not three candidates. There were five.

    Rob: No, that is not true at all. Every single normal ballot has been counted once with four people watching. If the count among the four was different, they were recounted. Then, if the tally matched the machine, they were counted again and the ballots were further inspected to find out why the count was off (there were on occasions reasons for this). The recounted ballots are counted very very accurately. There is no theoretical way to assign an error value on this amount, but empirically, I’d say it is as close as one could get. Legally, the error is zero. Statistically, it is not possible to say that it is different from zero.

    Among the challenged ballots, one could argue with the final determinations, but the law is the law and the canvassing board is making specific determinations. Therefore, every challenged ballot is being added to the recount number unambiguously. Are they making clerical errors in doing so? With dozens of people watching and rechecking? No, obviously not.

    So the recounted ballots plus the recounted challenged ballots have no statistically determinable error. A lot of people have said this is in error range, but that is using theoretical error rates that simply do not apply in this case at all.

  11. #11 Mark P
    December 19, 2008

    I have been watching this race with some dismay. We sent money to Franken’s campaign because 1) we couldn’t vote because we live in a different state, and 2) we figured since it’s virtually impossible to defeat a republican where we do live, we could at least try to help a decent senator get elected in another state. I certainly hope it turns out well.

    Franken’s online video saying why he was running was one of the best political speeches I have heard.

  12. #12 Stephanie Z
    December 19, 2008

    Greg, this update thing is total political crack. But you knew that.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2008

    Steph: Not really. In the present phase of counting, these numbers actually matter.

    Previous updates being done by various press outlets were absurd. My updates are meaningful.

    This is important for Minnesotans needing to schedule their plans regarding moving to Canada if Coleman wins.

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    December 19, 2008

    Crack in the sense that, despite needing to get some work done today, I can’t stop reloading. If they weren’t meaningful, that wouldn’t be the case.

    Any word on the withdrawn challenges?

  15. #15 Ana
    December 19, 2008

    Greg: I’m interested in knowing where you get the 150-200 number for allegedly double-counted duplicate ballots? As far as I can tell, Cindy Reichert, of Minneapolis infamy (and also the woman who turned beet red and wanted to punch me in the face when I pointed out that 100 ballots were missing from a count during the audit (found shortly thereafter)) is the only one saying that this probably happened. I know there was intensive scrutiny of the “duplicate” issue in Ramsey County, where I observed the recount. No count was settled until all dups were accounted for.
    I am also having a hard time reading about Coleman’s “pretty face”. No living man is closer to zombie – he’s double-counted ugly ugly.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    December 19, 2008

    Ana … is THAT the election Judge the Coleman lawyer is citing! Oh. Interesting.

    The number I cite is from the Star Tribune, so not a very good source. I would not be surprized if the number to be adjudicated is this large, as the yellow folder on the canvassing board desk is kinda thick.

    Also: You are saying that no count is settled until the dupes are accounted for. That was my experience as well.

    So you are saying that the total number of actual “dupe” issues is actually more like almost zero. That’s what I thought. If a high court sees it that way, and Franken is close to 300 ahead, this will just get dropped as immaterial.

    Regarding Coleman’s pretty face: Simply review the movie “Deliverance” … and then you will have a differnt reaction!

  17. #17 SplendidMonkey
    December 19, 2008

    This live blogging at the canvassing board is interesting to follow – MPR Newscut

  18. #18 qetzal
    December 19, 2008

    Regarding having the US Senate decide, a piece on NPR this morning claimed that this could only happen if MN Governor Pawlenty requested it.* Since Pawlenty is a Republican, and the US Senate has a Democratic majority, the NPR piece said he was not expected to do that.

    As I understood it, the Senate can refuse to seat a supposed winner, but can’t choose between two nominally tied candidates unless the governor asks. Is that right?

  19. #19 RM
    December 19, 2008

    qetzal, from what I can remember of it, the story I heard on NPR was exactly opposite:

    The Governor can appoint a person (without an election) to occupy a vacant Senate seat, but the Senate are the ones who decide if that the seat is actually vacant. Since Pawlenty is Republican, (and would likely appoint a Republican – e.g. Coleman) it was thought unlikely that the Democratic Senate would officially declare the MN seat to be vacant. Without an official declaration of vacancy, Gov. Pawlenty is unable to make an appointment.

  20. #20 qetzal
    December 19, 2008


    Thanks. Not sure how I managed such an inverted interpretation, but I’m sure you’re right. I was driving at the time, and wasn’t paying close attention.

  21. #21 Ana
    December 22, 2008

    I saw this on the Uptake today, but can’t find anything more on the matter:

    Michael McIntee: Hennepin County Canvassing Board files brief with MN Supreme Court saying Coleman’s duplicate ballot suit should be dismissed:
    The Petition is predicated on a factual misunderstanding of the Hennepin County Respondents� role in the recount for the United States Senate race and the role of county canvassing boards. The error alleged in the Petition relates to actions which took place only during the recount and, contrary to the factual allegations in the Petition, the HCCB did not certify any recount results or provide any summary statements in the recount to the State Canvassing Board. Moreover, county canvassing boards have no role in correcting errors alleged to have been made in a statewide recount. Accordingly, the Petition with respect to the Hennepin County Respondents should be dismissed.

    Guess we’ll learn more about that tomorrow.

    Also, MPR is reporting that Franken’s lead has held with all the withdrawn challenges now included in the count: