by Todd Beeton, Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 06:29:27 AM EST
Last week the Franken campaign predicted Al would be up by between 35-50 votes by the time all the withdrawn challenges have been returned to the count. According to a draft report released by the secretary of state's office last night, the real number is at the high end of that range.
From The AP:
On Tuesday, the board was scheduled to award votes from a remaining group of about 5,000 challenges that had been withdrawn by both campaigns. Based on a draft report released late Monday by the secretary of state's office, Franken will have earned 48 more votes than Coleman once those votes are allotted. [...]
Once the Canvassing Board restores the votes from the final group of 5,000 withdrawn challenges, Franken will have gained 3,191 votes out of the total pool of challenged votes and Coleman will have gained 2,955 votes. That adds up to a 236-vote advantage for Franken, enough to wipe out the 188-vote lead that Coleman had held before the Canvassing Board started ruling on disputed ballots. That was out of almost 3 million votes cast on Nov. 4.
Predictably, Coleman is calling Al's lead "temporary" and "artificial" and accusing the canvassing board of "overturning the will of the people." He's right about one thing: Franken's lead of 48 votes is sure to change, whether it will grow or shrink is the question.
Several outstanding issues could still affect the final vote count. The two campaigns and the secretary of state's office are negotiating how to handle an estimated 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots. In addition, the state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday over a Coleman claim that about 130 ballots were counted twice.
This duplicate ballot issue is Coleman's hail Mary pass and is rather confusing. Essentially, on election day, when a vote reading machine would not accept a ballot for whatever reason, a duplicate of that ballot was made by election workers and run through the machine. To prevent these ballots from being counted twice, the originals and duplicates were supposed to have been labeled as such and the duplicates counted only. But what about during the manual recount when machines were not a factor? Well, the canvassing board decided to use the originals, but throughout the process, it appears that while an original may exist, its corresponding duplicate may not, hence Coleman's claim that some of these ballots -- 130 to be precise -- may have been counted twice.
According to Nate, who has an excellent summary of the issue over at 538, Coleman's remedy is to throw out any originals where the duplicate can not be found. Franken is disputing this, claiming, with good reason, that there may be any number of reasons for the lack of duplicates that don't involve these ballots having been double counted.
Nate breaks them down:
1. Duplicate ballots were never created. This would also result in an absence of ballots labeled as duplicates during the hand recount, as well as an increase in the number of ballots counted between Election Day and the recount phase.
2. Duplicate ballots were created on Election Day, counted on Election Day, then set aside. In other words, the duplicate ballots were lost after Election Day. This would also result in an absence of duplicate ballots, although it would not result in an increase in the number of ballots counted over Election Day.
3. Duplicate ballots were created on Election Day, but set aside and never counted. The same as above, except the ballots were never counted in the first place; this permutation would result in an increase in the number of ballots counted versus Election Day.
Franken has already produced affidavits from election workers admitting to not having created duplicate ballots in at least 2 precincts, bolstering his case that scenario #1 is not only at least as likely as Coleman's claim that ballots were counted twice but that scenario #1 has actually happened.
It does seem, as Nate concludes, that Franken has the better side of this argument. It's hard to imagine the court deciding to throw out what could be perfectly legal votes without the assurance that they were indeed counted twice but that's exactly what Coleman is currently hanging his hat on.
We could have a ruling on this issue as soon as this afternoon. In the meantime, you can watch the Uptake's live feed of the canvassing board finishing up the recount HERE.
Update [2008-12-23 12:13:33 by Todd Beeton]:The Uptake is reporting that the Coleman campaign accused the canvassing board of using inconsistent standards during the recount so they revisited a bunch of ballots and the board only voted to look again at one ballot. Desperate measures...
MN Supreme Court will be hearing the duplicate ballot case today.