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Duplicate Ballots Could Swing Minn. Senate Contest Back to Coleman

When the Minnesota State Canvassing Board completes its review of challenged ballots tomorrow, the Al Franken campaign expects to hold a slim lead of 35 to 50 votes. But a state Supreme Court decision tomorrow in Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s favor on the issue of duplicate ballots could easily restore the lead to Coleman, possibly by a margin of about 25 to 50 votes.

The Franken team’s prediction, announced on Saturday, is actually a bit more modest than The Star Tribune’s projection of a 78-vote Franken victory. From The Hill:

“We now have enough data that I can say with a very high degree of confidence that Al Franken will win this count and be seated as the next senator from Minnesota,” Franken attorney Marc Elias told reporters Saturday.

However, the Coleman campaign has argued that a number of ballots were counted twice, due to an improper correlation of original and duplicate ballots. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Coleman seeks to “

I ran some calculations based on these numbers, and here’s what I found:

Minneapolis gave Franken 141,675 votes on Election Day, compared to 39,309 for Coleman. That’s 78.3 percent for Franken, and 21.7 percent for Coleman.

Let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, that there are exactly 130 ballots in question, that they’re all from Minneapolis and that these voters cast their ballots along the same lines as the city as a whole — big assumptions, I know, but bear with me. In this case, Franken would lose 102 votes if these alleged duplicates are discarded and Coleman would lose 28 — a net gain of 74 votes for Coleman.

This would leave Coleman with a lead of 24 to 49 votes, based on the Franken campaign’s prediction. Using The Star Tribune’s model, Franken would retain a lead of just four votes (coincidentally, this is the exact margin that the Franken team predicted more than two weeks ago.)

However, this is far from a done deal, because Franken’s lawyers don’t plan to go down without a fight. From the Pioneer Press:

Elias said the Coleman campaign’s duplicate-original contention is sheer fiction.

It also is unfair, he said, because while the Coleman campaign was able to challenge and separate out originals for which no duplicates could be found in Minneapolis, the Franken campaign was not allowed to do so in several more Republican areas.

The only resolution would be to reopen the recount in all 87 Minnesota counties, Elias suggested.

So there’s still a lot up in the air. Even if everything goes Coleman’s way on this issue and he takes a lead, Franken could still win easily if all of the improperly rejected absentee ballots are included, as they are likely to be.

The bottom line: by the end of the day tomorrow, when the canvassing board completes its review of the challenges and the Supreme Court rules on the duplicates, we should have a much clearer picture of the outcome of this election.

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