As counties have been conducting routine recanvassing operations, the lead has been sea-sawing between the two candidates. First, Scott Murphy’s lead shrank until the two candidates were left at an exact tie on Friday night (how likely is that?). Today, the numbers oscillated as various counties updated their totals. We went from a 198-vote lead for Murphy to a 98-vote edge for Tedisco edge back to a Democratic lead. The latest tally has Murphy ahead by 83 votes. 2 counties still have to recanvass.
The next step: Counting the absentee ballots. The two parties went to court today to determine when that process could start, with the GOP demanding that counties wait until all military ballots have been received next week. The court sided with Murphy, ruling that absentee ballots will start being tallied on Wednesday. (The deadline for the reception of domestic absentee ballots is tomorrow, but the deadline for the reception of overseas ballots is April 13th; but all have to be postmarked March 30th.) I am not sure why it makes such a difference when ballots are counted since all votes have already long been cast.
According to the State Board of Elections, 6,780 absentee ballots have been received as of today. According to my calculations based on the board of election’s PDF, the absentee ballot data contains good news for Scott Murphy.
1. 3107 (45,8%) ballots have been returned from registered Republicans and 2383 (35,1%) from registered Democrats. Among the entire electorate, the gap between the share of registered Republicans and of registered Democrats is 15%. That means that the pool of absentee voters is significantly Republican than the electorate at large.
2. Counties where Murphy performed well are dramatically over-represented in the pool of (uncounted) absentee ballots:
- Columbia County, which gave the Democrat 56% of the vote, cast 9.8% of the district’s votes last Tuesday; but 15,3% of the absentee ballots come from there!
- Two other counties that gave Murphy 56% are over-represented. Warren County and Washington County represented 10% and 8,1% of last Tuesday’s districtwide, respectively; but they make up 15% and 9,2% of the incoming absentee ballots!
- Inversely, Saratoga County, which saved Tedisco’s candidacy by giving him 54% of the vote, represented 36% of the districtwide vote last Tuesday. Now, only 27% of absentee ballots come from Saratoga - a sharp drop.
Let’s put this otherwise: Murphy is winning Columbia County and Warren County by 12%; he is losing Saratoga by 8%. Last Tuesday, Columbia and Warren combined made up 20% of the districtwide vote, while Saratoga made up 36%. Now, there are more absentee ballots from Warren and Columbia combined than from Saratoga. That does not bode well for Tedisco.
The Minnesota Senate race will take an important turn tomorrow, when the absentee ballots the court set aside for potential counting last week will be opened. This could all but guarantee that Al Franken will retain the lead at the end of this trial since the judges agreed to review too few ballots for Norm Coleman to have a chance at overtaking Franken. In fact, the number of ballots under review shrank further today when it was discovered that 13 of the 400 ballots the judges had deemed potentially eligible were discovered to have already been counted!
That leaves a grand total of 387 until-now rejected absentee ballots that could find their way in the official tally based on the judges’ examinations tomorrow. Even all of these ballots are deemed eligible, even if as many as 90% of these ballots have a mark for Franken or for Coleman (that would already be a lot considering that some will go for third-party candidate Barkley and others will be undervotes), Coleman would need to receive an improbable 82% of the remaining ballots to claim the lead!
A note of hope for Coleman: The court still has to rule on the potentially duplicated votes and on the missing enveloppe of Minneapolis ballots. At best, Coleman can hope to pick-up about 140 votes if both of these rulings go his way (not that there are any indications that the court is preparing to grant him such a victory). Even then, the Republican would need to win at least 62% of the two-way vote to overtake Franken’s lead. Simply put, the odds are not on the Republican’s side.