Friday, December 12, 2008

Minnesota Senate Recount -- update 6

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Star Tribune has Coleman up by 192, while Minnesota's secretary of state has him up by 687. Why the significant difference? The former's count includes the pre-recount totals from Minneapolis Ward 1 Precinct 3, where 133 ballots are missing, whereas the latter's count excludes the 1,965 ballots from that precinct, where Franken did well.

As TPM's Eric Kleefeld reported earlier today, though, things are now looking much brighter for Franken:

Al Franken's chances of winning the Minnesota recount may have just gone up astronomically.

The state canvassing board just voted unanimously that absentee ballots that were initially rejected because of clerical errors -- and the current estimate from the hearing is that there could be nearly 1,600 of them, based on some extrapolation -- should be counted, probably the single biggest issue that the Franken campaign has been hammering ever since this recount began, and which really seemed up in the air going into this hearing.

The board can't directly order the county officials to do the counting, only making a formal request to go back and count the votes and then submit amended totals. But many counties have already begun or finished the process of sorting the rejected absentees at the board's request, and board members did castigate any election officials who wouldn't do so, with some of them even leaving open the option of seeking a court order if necessary.

Because of all that, it seems very likely that the vast majority of these ballots will be counted before this is over -- and it could possibly seal the deal for Franken. Pre-election polling showed him winning the overall pool of absentee ballots by a solid margin, so it seems pretty reasonable to assume that the newly-counted votes will break for Al. If that proves to be correct -- and if Norm Coleman is unable to stop it through further litigation -- Franken will probably pull ahead of Coleman and win the election.

Of course, there will likely be "further litigation" regardless -- UPDATE: the Star Tribune is reporting that the absentee-ballot issue will go to the state Supreme Court -- and so this whole process is far from over.

Still, the key in terms of public perception will be to be in the lead when the recount is completed (and prior to the inevitable litigation over challenged ballots). In that respect, Franken may soon be in the best position he's been in yet.

For our past posts on the recount, see here.

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