Reconciling the Recount Numbers

As we noted last night, Minnesota’s Senate recount is over, with just one precinct outstanding. That precinct is Minneapolis’s Ward 3, Precinct 1, where election officials found that 133 more votes were recorded on a voting machine than there were ballots inside the machine. That discrepancy has triggered a hunt for the 133 “missing” ballots.

Several journalists from other states have asked us about the discrepancy between the vote totals as reported by the Minnesota Secretary of State and by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Currently, the Secretary of State shows Norm Coleman leading by 687 votes with a single precinct still outstanding. The Strib, on the other hand, has Coleman with a 192-vote victory, with 100% of the ballots recounted.

Actually, the Secretary of State’s numbers have always been different from the Strib’s, as the SOS reports ballots actually recounted, while the Strib has used the Nov. 4 totals as a baseline and has tracked changes as the precincts came in. Thus, there was a time when SOS showed Coleman with a 13,000-vote lead while the Strib had him up by, say, 300. Just a few days ago there was a bit of a panic when SOS showed Franken suddenly taking a 4,000 vote lead. The Strib, though, showed Coleman up by around 200. As the recount got closer to completion, the numbers naturally converged, but they have never been the same.

The current discrepancy is accounted for by the one precinct that is still outstanding in SOS’s tally, Minneapolis’s Ward 3, Precinct 1. SOS has not tallied any votes for that precinct, since it doesn’t regard the recount as complete. W3P1 is a heavily Democratic precinct. On November 4 it voted 1,090 to 595 for Franken. That 495-vote margin represents the difference between the two figures (687-192). The Strib’s number assumes that the recounted totals for W3P1 will be the same as the Nov. 4 totals, i.e., that the “missing” ballots will be found and counted.

This is good news for Coleman in the sense that the Strib’s 192-vote margin is a minimum. Should the ultimate determination be that the “missing” ballots can’t be counted, the effect will be to increase Coleman’s margin of victory since those ballots were presumably around two to one for Franken.

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