by Todd Beeton, Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 12:08:16 PM EST
As of this posting, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website, with 84% precincts recounted, Franken has lost 1,191 votes while Coleman has lost 1,189 votes. So, by this measure alone, Coleman has expanded his lead by 2 votes.
This is complicated, of course, by the challenged ballot factor (for which Nate Silver provides a helpful primer HERE.) So far, Team Coleman has challenged 1,600 Franken votes and Franken has challenged 1,557 of Coleman's. The mystery is how many of these votes will be added to each candidate's final tally once the canvassing board rules on them. On Sunday, Nate Silver projected a Franken win by 27 votes, largely due to the assumption that significantly more challenged Franken ballots will end up as valid Franken votes than will be the case for Coleman. Indeed, as Nate observed, on a precinct by precinct basis:
...the fewer the number of challenged ballots, the better Franken is doing, and the higher the number of challenged ballots, the worse he is doing; the relationship is in fact quite strong.
It is not an accident, then, that as the number of challenges has increased with each day of the recount, Franken's momentum appears to have stalled out. Very probably, a majority of the challenges are coming from Franken's pile. This is somewhat irrespective of which campaign actually instigates the challenge, since as we suggested yesterday, a potential Franken undervote could be the subject of a challenge from either campaign depending on the initial ruling of the local elections judge.
One theory as to the vastly increasing number of challenges, especially from the Coleman team, is that they are purposely challenging clearly valid Franken votes to create the illusion of a race that is closer than it actually is. To push back on this, the Al Franken campaign is insisting that Coleman's true lead is 84 votes.
"The differential between the two candidates is 84 votes," lead Franken recount lawyer Marc Elias just told a press briefing. "That obviously is down from the starting point of 215."
The public numbers from the Star Tribune currently show Coleman ahead by 210 votes, with 77% of the total ballots recounted. But the Franken campaign points to an obvious flaw in those numbers: All challenged ballots, regardless of the merits of the challenges, are taken out of the count for now until the state canvassing board can make a final ruling.
The Franken camp, however, says its observers have taken down what the opinions were of the on-site election judges, and get their number by assuming that the local officials' calls will ultimately be upheld.
It's also possible that some of the wrongly rejected absentee ballots -- many of which Franken has found should have been counted for him -- may ultimately be included in the recount. There have been at least 6,400 absentee ballots rejected statewide. The hearing on that is tomorrow.
Another point of concern for the Franken camp: a number of ballots that have just plain gone missing.
Al Franken's campaign is contending that Minnesota election officials may have lost several dozen ballots across the state. Their basis for the charge is that the number of recounted ballots in certain counties does not match the total numbers of votes tallied on Election Day.
The campaign sent a letter to Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie detailing their concerns yesterday.
"It appears that there were numerous ballots that were counted on election day, but that are no longer available for consideration during the recount," Franken recount attorney David Lillehaug wrote.
"This is a matter of profound concern and apparently a violation of the Franken campaign's right [and the Coleman campaign's right] to review every ballot cast on election night."
The Franken campaign is nobly fighting for every vote. Help Al have the resources to do so as the recount moves along into December at our Road To 60 ActBlue page.