Recount Canvassing Board Reconvenes

The Minnesota Canvassing Board convened today to decide the fate of 133 missing ballots and to settle the issue of allegedly wrongfully rejected absentee ballots. Before I provide their verdict, I want to recap the current state of the race as provided by the MN Secretary of State's website:

            Recount         Original
Coleman:   1,208,344   -   1,210,995  =  -2,651
Franken:   1,207,657   -   1,210,285  =  -2,628

Current Margin: 687

Precincts Recounted: 4129 of 4130 (99.93% of 11/4 Votes)

The excluded precinct, Minneapolis' 1st Precinct in Ward 3, has yet to release their tally due to the missing "1 of 5" envelope containing 133 ballots. At today's meeting the Canvassing Board decided that the original election day tally would be used, for the precinct in question:

First, the board voted to count 133 missing ballots from a Minneapolis precinct, despite the objections of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson told the board this morning that it could include the ballots, which otherwise would have cost Franken dozens of votes in his bid to unseat Coleman.

Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press

There were 1,965 votes cast on election day in Minneapolis Ward 3, Precinct 1; Franken won 1,090, and Coleman 595 for a difference of 495 votes. Roughly 1,832 votes were recounted in the Minneapolis Precinct for ballots that were not misplaced; the result of that recount will be added to the election day total for the 133 missing ballots. Of the 133 missing ballots, Franken holds a 46 vote lead. There is no publicly available figure for the actual recount result in this precinct. For the purposes of moving forward I will assume that the 495 vote margin will remain consistent. Factoring in the 495 vote gain for Franken decreases the margin to 192 votes.

         Recount [VFA]      Original
Coleman:   1,208,939   -   1,210,995  =  -2,056
Franken:   1,208,747   -   1,210,285  =  -1,538

Current Margin: 192

Precincts Recounted: 4130 of 4130

The canvassing board also voted unanimously to include the allegedly wrongfully rejected absentee ballots:

The announcement came just hours after the state Canvassing Board, which is overseeing the recount in contest between Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, voted unanimously to ask election officials in all 87 counties to identify and count improperly rejected ballots. Board members stressed that they only have the authority to make a recommendation and not to issue an order.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann also suggested that there may be as many as 1,600 of these allegedly wrongfully rejected absentee ballots, or around 13% of all rejected absentee ballots.

At this point it's impossible to know the extent to which these rulings will favor either candidate, but the Franken campaign had long been pushing for these resolutions. As a result, the Coleman campaign is asking the MN Supreme Court to halt the recounting of these allegedly wrongfully rejected absentee ballots "until a standard procedure is established."

Today's rulings place the final certification 133 votes closer, with challenges and absentee ballots still to be resolved. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie continued to push for a reduction to the number of challenges making this remark: "Don't make us tell you when they're frivolous." He expects both campaigns to further reduce the number of challenges. Coleman preempted this request last night by issuing his third statement relating to challenges:

Today Fritz Knaak, Senior Counsel for Coleman for Senate, announced that the campaign will be withdrawing an additional 225 ballots challenged during the hand recount. To date, the Coleman campaign has withdrawn 1,350 challenged ballots, with the State Canvassing Board set to meet on December 16 to start reviewing ballots challenged by both campaigns.

Source: Norm Coleman For Senate

Al Franken has yet to issue a third round of withdrawals; thus leaving his challenge numbers unchanged:

                          Current   Withdrawn
            Franken:       2,220      1,058
            Coleman:       2,027      1,350
            Total:         4,247      2,408

            Margin:          193        192

There are still 4,247 challenges yet to be resolved and an unknown number of allegedly wrongfully rejected absentee ballots possibly numbering in the 1,600 range. The 12 sealed and uncounted absentee ballots also remain at large, although today's ruling will likely mark their inclusion. Combing these separate results yields a total of 5,859 outstanding and uncounted votes still to be acknowledged before the very flexible December 19th deadline.

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