Minnesota Senate Recount, Update XV

The Secretary of State’s office opened and counted 952 previously rejected absentee ballots this afternoon. These are ballots that the Franken and Coleman campaigns agreed had been improperly rejcted under the Supreme Court order addressing the Coleman campaign’s challenge to the procedure. After the counting of the previously rejected absentee ballots this afternoon, Franken widened his lead from approximately 40 votes to 225 votes. The recount will formally conclude on Monday at the final meeting of the Board of Canvassers that was convened to preside over this process.

We gave our take on the so-called “fifth pile” absentee ballots from which these 900 absentee ballots were drawn here. The Coleman campaign asserts that an additional 650 additional rejected absentee ballots should have been included in the recount. Given the magnitude of Franken’s lead at this point, in excess of the 130 or so votes that are at issue with respect to duplicate ballots disputed by the Coleman campaign and reserved by the Supreme Court for an election contest, I wonder whether Senator Coleman may now choose not to file an election contest following the declaration of Franken as the winner of the recount on Monday.

The recount has resulted in a dramatic reversal of fortune. On the morning after election night, Senator Coleman led by more than 700 votes. That lead fell to 205 votes when final adjustments to election night totals were made by election officials. Franken’s narrow lead did not materialize until the Board of Canvasssers ruled on the ballots that were challenged by the two campaigns during the manual recount. The magnification of Franken’s lead today was predictable, though the size of the lead he has now achieved is surprising. My guess is that it will give rise to some sober rethinking on the part of Senator Coleman, whose only recourse is an election contest.

JOHN adds: That may well prove to be right, and I agree that the gain Franken made today was surprising. It is possible, however, that the ballots opened so far–the ones on which the campaigns were able to agree–may be biased in Franken’s favor. Franken’s campaign was aggressive about getting lists of voters whose ballots were excluded, checking those lists against the DFL database, and interviewing voters who they thought were sympathetic. My impression is that the Coleman campaign was nowhere near as aggressive in trying to identify rejected ballots that favor their candidate. It may be, therefore, that Franken’s campaign consistently agreed to include ballots that they knew were for their candidate while objecting (regardless of the merits) to ballots that they believed were for Coleman. If that’s the case, the remaining ballots (i.e., those on which the campaigns did not agree) may tend to favor Coleman. That’s speculation, of course, but at the moment some such scenario will have to be true for Coleman to have a chance.

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