Friday, November 07, 2008

Gap narrows in Minnesota Senate race, recount looming

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Coleman was up by 725 on election night and declared victory on Wednesday, but the gap kept narrowing. I had it at 694 on Wednesday afternoon, then at 462 just a couple of hours later. By yesterday morning, it was 438. It's now at 239:

-- Coleman: 1,211,540
-- Franken: 1,211,301

(Or: 42 to 42.)

Coleman pressed Franken not to push for a recount, arguing that it would be too expensive (actually, it will cost only about $86,000), but Franken rightly declined, saying that "a recount could change the outcome significantly" and that the "goal is to ensure that every vote is properly counted."

Coleman declared victory -- with the word "VICTORY" posted on his website -- after Franken said he would proceed with the recount, which, as the Star-Tribune noted (link above), "would [have been] automatic because of the closeness of the vote." (Franken also said that "his campaign was investigating alleged voting irregularities at some polling places in Minneapolis.")

Coleman's "victory" declaration was clearly a pre-emptive move in the spirit of Bush 2000. Like "Mission Accomplished," though, it could come back to haunt him.

The recount hasn't started yet, but Franken has still made up ground. One reason is human error. For example (link above):

Just as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was explaining to reporters the recount process in one of the narrowest elections in Minnesota history, an aide rushed in with news: Pine County's Partridge Township had revised its vote total upward -- another 100 votes for Democratic candidate Al Franken, putting him within .011 percentage points of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

The reason for the change? Exhausted county officials had accidentally entered 24 for Franken instead of 124 when the county's final votes were tallied at 5:25 Wednesday morning.

"That's why we have recounts," Ritchie said, surveying the e-mail sent in from the county auditor. "Human error. People make mistakes."

Very true, but the technology isn't perfect either. As Jon Chait points out at The Plank (and it's from his post that I'm linking to the Star-Tribune articles), the optical scan ballot system used in Minnesota are prone to error, too.

It may be too much for Franken to make up the remaining difference, but a recount is absolutely necessary. You never know.


There were, post-election, four undecided Senate races: Minnesota, Georgia, Oregon, and Alaska. Oregon has gone to the Democrat, the whole situation in Alaska stinks, Georgia is poised for a run-off, and there will now be a recount in Minnesota.

I don't expect Chambliss, the Republican incumbent, to lose the run-off in Georgia (where he won by three but didn't quite make it to 50 percent), but the Democrats could end up taking both Alaska and Minnesota, which would give them 59, including Lieberman.

(Which is what I was projecting before Tuesday -- yes, I thought they would win both Alaska and Minnesota.)

I've argued that the Democrats should give Lieberman the boot, but what if they're at 59? Hmmm.

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  • I worked the election in Anoka Cty, when I got home at about 10:20 I saw Fox News and they said Frankin would probably win because they were 31 votes apart with only 4 precincts left and they were all NE Minnesota a heavily Democrat area. My son called at 10:55 and said Coleman was up by 2,000 with 4 precincts to go from NE Minnesota. A very professional recount with both sides counting and guarding these votes must be.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:37 PM  

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