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Coleman Leads Franken by 76 Votes; Thousands Remain Uncounted

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Norm Coleman Has a 76 Vote Lead Over Al Franken With Thousands of Challenged Votes Yet to be Counted

While all but one precinct in Minnesota is done recounting the ballots from the Minnesota Senate race, the final counting is far from finished. Unfortunately the mainstream media has had a difficult time staying on top of this story and reporting it correctly. Some confusion among the general public, who only read the news, is understandable. It is however appalling for the mainstream media, whose job it is to understand and report on the news, to get it so wrong so much of the time.

The Pioneer Press leads with a headline, "Senate recount ends amid many questions". That of course isn't entirely accurate because there are still 1000's of ballots yet to be counted. The Seattle Times puts out the headline, "Hand recount ends; Coleman still leads". Also not entirely accurate because the State Canvassing board will count thousands of ballots by hand in the coming weeks. The Washington Post states, "Recount Ends in Minnesota Senate Race". Bloomberg put out a very misleading article stating that, "Republican Norm Coleman holds a 687- vote lead over Democrat Al Franken in a US Senate race in Minnesota as a month-long recount nears its end." How these media outlets came up the 687 number is discussed in detail below. The New York Times was a little better in running the following headline, "Result Is Still Uncertain After Minnesota Recount" but even they used the incorrect 687 vote lead number.

Here are the facts. All 87 counties in Minnesota have completed work recounting ballots. All but one precinct is reporting on the Minnesota Secretary of State website. That remaining precinct is not reporting any of the just over 2000 ballots because 133 ballots were found to be missing at the end of last week. This was determined by matching the voter rolls on election day with the number of ballots that were recounted. Originally it was thought that the discrepancy was due to some ballots being counted twice on election night. That was quickly debunked by a number of people including Nate Silver of and the election officials a few hours later recanted their original explanation and stated publicly that their records did in fact indicate that 133 ballots had gone missing. This was yet another victory for Minnesota's election system where there are so many different paper trails to create all the checks and balances for verifying the correct number of ballots that were cast on election day.

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If those 133 ballots are not found the State Canvassing board will have the option to certify the original vote tally that was recorded on election night. This is good news for Al Franken as he had the potential to lose up to 46 votes from the missing 133. Part of the confusion with all the different vote totals being reported in the media stems from the fact that these 133 ballots went missing from Ward 3, precinct 1 in Minneapolis. This precinct is in a neighborhood called dinkytown and is populated by many University of Minnesota students. The original voting tally went more than 2 to 1 for Al Franken. Because the missing 133 ballots have not been found all of the votes cast in this precinct have not been added to the Minnesota Secretary of State website. Thus it gives the appearance that Norm Coleman has increased his lead to 687 votes. The Minneapolis Star and Tribune reported today that the votes from this precinct went as follows on election day, 1,090 votes for DFLer Al Franken and 595 for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. By not counting these votes it is an advantage of 495 for Coleman and explains why some media outlets are saying Norm Coleman's lead has grown to 687. Meanwhile the Star and Tribune has Norm Coleman currently leading by 192 votes which is the difference between 687 and 495. To the credit of the Star Tribune they have stuck with one methodology for reporting the vote spread during the recount and they have been consistent in that regard. Their methodology is somewhat artificial in that it doesn't take into account any challenge imbalances between the two campaigns and this should have been noted as a caveat all along.

Al Franken earlier in the week said that their campaign would withdraw 633 challenged votes to ease the burden that the State Canvassing board now has in sorting through and counting all the challenged votes. Al Franken called on Norm Coleman to do the same and to save the taxpayers money from having the State Canvassing board waste time going through hundreds of frivolous ballot challenges. Norm Coleman's campaign responded on Friday by withdrawing 650 ballots. Norm Coleman still has 3,375 challenged ballots pending and Al Franken has 3,280 ballots pending. Because Norm Coleman has challenged 95 more votes than Al Franken he has in one sense artificially subtracted an additional 95 votes from Al Franken's total. If we remove the confounding issue of the imbalance of ballot challenges one can state that Norm Coleman's lead is now only 97 votes over Al Franken.

Our projections, which are be described below, show that Norm Coleman has an approximate 76 vote lead on Al Franken with thousands of challenged ballots yet to be counted. Our methodology estimated pure ballot pickups without the confounding issue of ballot challenges and subtracted the total changes from the starting point of a 215 vote advantage for Norm Coleman. The list below shows the following ballot gains for Al Franken (AF) or for Norm Coleman (NC) in the following counties. This analysis was done last week and these numbers are noted. Now that all the counting is done the new column shows the final vote gains by county for Al Franken and Norm Coleman. The majority of the counties, where only a net gain of one or two votes for either candidate, are not shown.

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County, Vote gain on 12/02 , Final Vote gain on 12/05
AF = Al Franken
NC = Norm Coleman

Lac Qui Parie, +5 (NC)
Becker +22 (NC)
Filmore +10 (AF)
St. Louis +43 (AF)
Ramsey +48 (AF), +82 (AF)
Anoka +5 (NC)
Carlton +4 (AF)
Pine +7 (AF)
Stearns +4 (AF)
Dakota +10 (NC)
Washington +4 (NC)
Hennepin +31 (AF), +82 (AF)
Blue Earth +2 (NC)
Polk +5 (AF)
Dodge +1 (AF), +3 (AF)
Jackson +13 (NC)
Carver +3 (NC)
Rock NA, +2 (AF)
Winona NA, +4 (NC)
Le Sueur +6 (NC)
Scott NA, +9 (NC)
Wright NA, +20 (NC)

Gains for Al Franken in Hennepin and Ramsey counties in the last few days helped narrow the gap from our previous estimate of 115 vote advantage for Coleman to now a 76 vote advantage for Coleman. This of course does not take into account the outcome of the over 6000 challenged ballots that will be counted by the State Canvassing board and the potential of having incorrectly rejected absentee ballots also counted. There are also still potentially 12 missing votes in Washington county, that to our knowledge have not been explained.

The Al Franken campaign has publicly stated this weekend that their internal polling of the opinions of election officials at the time of challenges gives them a lead of currently 4 votes. There is also the issue of another 12 votes found in Minneapolis during the search for the 133 missing ballots and there are potentially 1000's of incorrectly disqualified absentee ballots that may still be counted. The only thing that is clear is that the race is exceedingly tighter now than it was before the recount started.


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Eric Nelson is freelance writer, an editor at OpEdNews, and a spiritual progressive from Minnesota who has become more politically active. The reasons for this should be obvious to most; rising poverty, a broken health care system, and a growing (more...)

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