Republican incumbent Norm Coleman headed into the Minnesota U.S. Senate recount leading Democratic challenger Al Franken by more than 200 votes. But on Jan. 5, the state Canvassing Board certified recount results showing Franken received 225 more votes than Coleman in the general election, out of nearly 2.9 million votes cast. How did this happen?
Unlike many right-leaning blogs and commentators, Coleman makes no claim of partisan funny business by the five members of the Canvassing Board, which has only one clearly identified Democrat. Coleman's lawyer once praised the panel's makeup, in fact.
Coleman's appeal challenging the board's certification, which a three-judge panel began hearing Jan. 26, lays out his theory: "Not every valid vote has been counted, and some have been counted twice." Coleman raises several issues, among them: duplicate ballots, "missing" ballots, "improperly" rejected absentee ballots and discrepancies in rulings made on ballots concerning voter intent.
The outcome of this squeaky-close race now rests with the courts. But even if Coleman wins on all points it's far from certain that he would gain enough votes to change the outcome. When the Canvassing Board was forced to count some disputed absentee ballots, for example, it was Franken who won a majority of them. Now Coleman wants even more rejected absentee ballots opened and counted, but nobody can say if he would get a higher percentage of those, or if he would just see Franken's margin increase.
In our Analysis section, we take a look at each issue.
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