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Franken Makes Small Gains in Painstaking Recount « The Washington Independent

Don’t believe the headlines telling you that Sen. Norm Coleman’s lead over Al Franken in the Minnesota Senate recount is growing.

As the canvassing board plows through its second day of challenged ballot reviews (livestream here, resuming shortly after 3pm ET), Coleman’s official lead has grown to 328 votes. But that’s because only Franken’s challenges have been reviewed so far.

I’ll explain this as succinctly as I can. When Franken challenges a ballot, it means one of two things: the vote was initially given to Coleman and Franken thinks it should be discarded; or the vote was initially discarded and Franken thinks it should be his. (I have yet to see a case where a Coleman vote could be reasonably reassigned to Franken.)

Ballots are immediately removed from the official count when they are challenged, and they’re re-included when the challenge is resolved. Since the canvassing board usually agrees with the recount judges’ initial rulings, most of the challenges fail. So a Franken challenge will usually result in a vote for Coleman or a non-vote.

If Franken successfully challenges a ballot and an initial Coleman vote becomes a non-vote, the official count does not change (the ballot had already been yanked when it was first challenged). But this is still a net gain for Franken because his opponent has lost a vote. The only way that Franken can gain in the official count is if he wins a challenge that results in a vote being assigned to him.

So where do we stand? So far, 339 Franken challenges have been ruled on with about 100 left to go.

Here’s how they’ve been allocated:

Coleman: 188

Franken: 48

Allocated for neither/other: 103

That means the net change in the official count is 140 votes for Coleman, bringing his lead from 188 at the end of the hand recount to 328 now. But actually it means a gain of somewhere between 48 and 151 votes for Franken, depending on how many of the “allocated for neither/other” votes initially went for Coleman, which we do not know.

The canvassing board expects to finish ruling on Franken’s challenges today. Then we’ll see the Coleman challenges, which will likely number around 1,000, although the canvassing board has urged Coleman to withdraw a portion of these. The effect of these challenges will be the inverse of Franken’s: the official count will register gains for Franken, while the actual count will move in Coleman’s favor.

It seems likely that Franken will come up a bit shy of overtaking Coleman at the end of the challenged ballot resolution. But then we move into the improperly rejected absentee ballots, on which the state supreme court is ruling right now (livestream available at The Minnesota Independent). If the court upholds the canvassing board’s decision to count these votes, it seems likely that Franken will take the lead.

I’ll keep you posted, if you can bear to read any more on this….

UPDATE: Yesterday, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was careful to refer to Coleman as “Senator Coleman” and Franken as “candidate Franken,” correcting himself the (many) times he used the wrong appellation. Today he’s gotten tired of that game; it’s a simple “Coleman” and “Franken.”

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