Due a familial trip to Canada, I am cutting down blogging hours for the day - but electoral news are showing no sign of slowing down in the holiday season. Here is a quick attempt at staying on top of the Minnesota recount.
As I explained on Saturday, Al Franken’s estimated lead of 251 votes at the end of the canvassing board’s count was a fragile one: It did not take into account the more than 5,000 withdrawn challenges that election officials had not had time to process.
Today, The Star Tribune reported that Franken should stay ahead by a stunningly tight 48 votes once all these withdrawals get processed! While the canvassing board’s will not release an official tally until December 30th, The Star Tribune’s number - based on a draft of a document obtained from the SoS office - is very significant: It firmly puts Al Franken in the driver’s saet.
For the first time since November 4th, Franken is now undoubtedly the leader of this Senate race. In a remarkable role reversal, it is now up to Coleman to find ways to send the game in overtime; it is up to Coleman to win court cases, contest ballots, find innovative issues to delay the count’s certification.
And, however few 48 votes might seem, Coleman has few paths available to him to close that gap.
For one, Franken’s lead looks to be (barely) superior to the 46 votes the Democrat stands to lose if Coleman gets a court to throw out the count of the 133 ballots that have gone missing in a Minneapolis precinct (the canvassing board has allowed that one precinct to use its Election Night count rather than its recounted tally). In other words, a judicial victory on this one issue would not be enough for Coleman to take lead.
In a supremely ironic twist, Coleman’s prospects are now dependent on the 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots. Consider this: For much of the past month, Franken’s campaign arguing those votes should be counted and Coleman’s camp was insisting that they should be left out. But now that Franken is ahead, the roles have been reversed and the GOP could found itself pleading for as expansive a tally as possible.
Coleman’s second hope is the issue of 130 duplicate ballots, which Republicans argue overwhelmingly benefited Franken. The case will now be heard by the state Supreme Court. “The fact that over 100 votes have been double-counted, overwhelmingly benefiting Al Franken, simply underscores the fact that their lead is not real,” said the Coleman camp. It is unclear just how many votes Coleman stands to gain if the Supreme Court rules that those 130 ballots should be thrown out - and for now odds are against the Justices taking such a drastic decision.
It is telling of how difficult a position Coleman now finds himself that he is primarily relying on a batch of ballots (improperly rejected absentee ballots) whose counting he so desperately tried to stop.