MN-Sen: 48 Votes

Last week the Franken campaign predicted Al would be up by between 35-50 votes by the time all the withdrawn challenges have been returned to the count.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On Tuesday, the board was scheduled to award votes from a remaining group of about 5,000 challenges that had been withdrawn by both campaigns.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Once the Canvassing Board restores the votes from the final group of 5,000 withdrawn challenges, Franken will have gained 3,191 votes out of the total pool of challenged votes and Coleman will have gained 2,955 votes.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.

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MN-Sen: Franken Camp Expects To Be Ahead By 35-50 Votes Next Week

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, at the end of the Minnesota canvassing board's review of the challenged ballots, Al Franken had pulled ahead in the Senate recount by 251 votes. This is a bit deceiving, however, since 5,000 or so withdrawn challenges still need to be returned to the count, so the Franken campaign, as they have done throughout the recount, sent a press release out today in order to manage expectations, stating that once the withdrawn challenges are factored in, they expect to be ahead by 35-50 votes.

From Franken recount lawyer, Marc Elias (via Senate Guru):

"The work left for the state canvassing board to do next week - the re-allocation of withdrawn challenges - is work we have already done in our internal count, because that count has always assumed that all challenges will fail. On Tuesday, I will stand before you with that work completed. Al Franken will have a lead of between 35 and 50 votes. And, at some point not too long after that, Al Franken will stand before you as the Senator-Elect from Minnesota."

Team Coleman responded with typical incredulity:

"This is just more bluster and hot air from a campaign that has been trailing for two years. While we can understand their need to latch onto their temporary lead, the reality is there's a long way to go in this process. We have no doubt that once this recount is fully completed, Senator Coleman will be in the lead and will be reelected to the Senate."

Notice what the Coleman response is conspicuously missing. From Guru:

Um, I don't see any numbers in their response. Rhetoric aplenty, but no numbers to contest Franken's assertion.

Interesting too that the Coleman campaign anticipates the recount going on and on and on ad infinitum; if I recall it wasn't long ago that they were insisting there should be no recount at all.

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Ok, So Al Franken is Finally in the Lead

Alright, so Al Franken is finally in the lead as/of Today. I'm not a dumb bunny. I know that this race is basically too close to call. However, I  also know that part of what happens in races like this are, that there are going to be changes as the final vote tally comes down to the wire.

IMHO there is a statistical measure of certainty to certain things you're going to find out about - but NOT for a vote.
There is only one , right - valid count of this vote total and I just dont see how it will be different from the final vote count already tallied, the one in which Coleman won.

And the reports today that Franken is in the lead come from where? An anomaly in the recount process where the day before, a certain number of ballots were left on a jump decision - so that Coleman comes back into the lead on Monday? Or is this actually the point at which Frankens claim that he won - actually holds water?

Seriously, what is going on up there? I want the truth, not lies and the lying liars that tell them. I want to know the real story, once and for all. Whats really going on up there in Minnesota?! Does anyone really know the real story?

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MN-Sen: Franken Pulls Ahead...For Now

As expected today, the Minnesota canvassing board's review of the challenged ballots has now put Al Franken ahead of Norm Coleman for the first time in the recount. As of this posting, The Uptake lists Franken's lead at 78 votes. The Star Tribune's ballot challenge projection puts Franken up 82.

This lead, however, carries with it a couple of caveats. First is the matter of the thousands of ballot challenges that were withdrawn by the two campaigns. The AP writes:

But the final outcome of the recount will also depend on some 5,000 withdrawn challenges that have not yet been allocated to the candidates. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said those wouldn't be allocated until next week at the earliest.

In addition, yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that while the rejected absentee ballots must be counted, both campaigns have to agree on the ballots that are included, which could actually put Coleman in the driver's seat. This will also ensure that the recount drags into the new year.

The Minnesota Supreme Court, meanwhile, ruled Thursday that improperly rejected absentee ballots be included in the state's recount. It ordered the candidates to work with the secretary of state and election officials to set up a process to identify ballots that were rejected in error. Counties must make a report by Dec. 31.

The court said the candidates will have a chance to challenge the estimated 1,600 absentee ballots as they are unsealed and counted, just as they did during the earlier hand recount.

Nate has a comprehensive post about the downside of the court's ruling although he's rather optimistic about the limitations of bad faith that Coleman will be able to get away with.

As always, you can watch the live feed of the canvassing board's meeting at The Uptake.

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MN-Sen: Day 3 of Ballot Challenge Review Underway

The third day of the Minnesota canvassing board's review of the challenged ballots in the Senate recount has begun. According to The Uptake's stream, after 598 ballots reviewed, Coleman has picked up 247 votes and Franken has picked up 200. And this is after all of Franken's challenges have been reviewed and after Coleman's have just begun to be reviewed. Certainly, the fact that Franken is close to overtaking Coleman already is not good news for Coleman and sure enough, The Star Tribune's tally has Coleman currently up by 240 and Franken's projected lead by the end of the review at 249 (Senate Guru projects a lead for Franken of just 29 votes.) These numbers, however, do not take into account the impact of all the withdrawn challenges by the two campaigns (Coleman just withdrew 400 more this morning.) Nate Silver cautions not to forget to take these estimates with a huge grain of salt.

We also know nothing so far about the nature of the Coleman challenges. Since Coleman withdraw fewer of his challenges, does this mean that the challenges he retained are less likely to be successful? That seems highly probable -- but, we can't be certain. Also, will Coleman's challenges have a different typology from Franken's? For instance, will a significant fraction of them concern nonvotes, as opposed to Franken votes the campaign is trying to have excluded? We simply don't know.

I do consider Franken the favorite in the recount, but that is because it appears that erroneously rejected absentee ballots will be considered by many counties; these ballots could easily tip a net of 100 or so votes to Franken. Without those absentee ballots, the recount still appears to me to be too close to call. Until we learn more about (i) Coleman's challenges and (ii) the withdrawn challenges, I would be suspicious of overly-specific claims about the status of the recount that you might see elsewhere.

Watch the Uptake's feed below:

(feed taken down while board is in recess to avoid annoying auto-play of loud classical music)

Update [2008-12-18 12:44:14 by Todd Beeton]:In seven minutes, Franken has netted 22 votes and Coleman none. As The Mollusk observed in the thread of Jeff Rosenberg's rec'd diary, "Coleman is getting creamed in his challenges...Maybe there really is a qualitative difference between their challenges." It's certainly looking that way.

Update [2008-12-18 13:32:1 by Todd Beeton]:The canvassing board has taken a break until 2pm. After 712 ballots reviewed, Coleman has picked up 249 votes and Franken has picked up 273. It was expected that Franken would overtake Coleman in the recount, as you'll recall, the Franken campaign had projected by its own tally that he would be ahead by double digits by the end of the recount. Right now The Star Tribune claims that Franken has 167 votes to make up before he is actually in the lead but again this does not take into account the withdrawn challenges or whether or not the rejected absentees will be counted. Cautious optimism...

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