Coleman Allows Franken Latitude

The Coleman campaign released their reply to the Franken Motion we recently covered; the Election Contest Court has yet to issue an official order on the subject, but a lot of insight can be gleamed from the exact wording of Coleman's answer:

Contestants agree that Contestee should be granted leave to amend his counterclaims to include additional wrongly rejected absentee ballots so long as all similarly situated rejected absentee ballots--that is, those that reasonably fall within the same category--are subject to review by the Court to determine if they too are legally cast votes. Contestants have endeavored to include all similarly situated ballots within each and every category presented to the Court, in their summary judgment motion and at trial, and welcome all efforts to ensure that legally cast votes are counted.

As to the timing of any amendment, Contestants respectfully request that Contestee be required to identify any additional rejected absentee ballots before the Court makes any rulings regarding which, if any, of the rejected absentee ballots identified by Contestants should be counted.

Dated: February 6, 2009

Source: Contestants' Response to Motion to Amend Answer and Counterclaim via

The Coleman campaign has conditionally accepted Franken's request, contingent upon their inclusion of additional absentee ballots. This response by the Coleman campaign reveals the dreary prospect of an absentee ballot inspired comeback; they have internally realized that the origin of any given absentee ballot is irrelevant. The Coleman campaign has shifted their focus to quantity, in the hopes that each wrongfully rejected absentee ballot inherently tends toward Norm Coleman. An analysis of the rejected voter list [csv] posted on Norm Coleman's website seems to verify this premise. The ballots listed on Coleman's site belong to the C1 region of our absentee ballot universe diagram.

Using the aforementioned data, an extrapolation can be performed:

List of Coleman's Rejected Absentee Ballots

Download the complete table: PDF 113 KB

The extrapolation uses the final recount result, as certified by the Minnesota State Canvassing Board on January 5th, and assumes that any subsequent absentee ballot, in any county, will follow the trend established by the recount. All candidates were considered. A brief synopsis of our results is available below:

   Scenario                               Coleman Net
   (1) 100% of Coleman's List Accepted:      -84.18
   (2) Only Counties that Coleman Won:       269.98
   (3) 100% Accepted with 5% Coleman Bias:   138.72
   (4) Coleman Counties with 5% Bias:        368.73

   Listed from Franken Counties:              2,490
   Listed from Coleman Counties:              1,968
   Total:                                     4,458

The results listed above can be used to determine the complete set of potential absentee ballot results. To determine what would happen if just 20% of listed ballots were counted with a 10% uniform bias toward Coleman, above and beyond the recount result, the following calculations can be used:

      100% Accepted with 5% Coleman Bias = 138.72
    x                                         20%
        20% Accepted with 5% Coleman Bias = 27.74
    x                                           2
       20% Accepted with 10% Coleman Bias = 55.49

Now that you understand where the data came from and how it can be used, we can discuss what it actually means. Norm Coleman has essentially two options, they are not mutually exclusive, but they are strongly correlated:

A. Try and cherry pick absentee ballots that come from statistically favorable counties.

B. Hope that the set of currently rejected absentee ballots systematically favors Norm Coleman.

Scenario (1) represents a complete failure, on the part of the Coleman campaign, to implement either option (A) or (B); scenario (2) represents the successful implementation of option (A); scenario (3), option (B) and scenario (4) encompasses both options (A) and (B).

At this juncture, the Coleman campaign seems to be keeping their options open, but in including more ballots from Franken territory, they seem to be relying more heavily on option (B), despite the lacking quantitative evidence. The only empirical data pertaining to option (B) stems from the testimony of three county election directors; Joe Mansky representing Ramsey, Kevin Corbid from Washington and the Election Manager of Anoka County, Rachel Smith.

Rachel Smith's testimony covered the vast majority of the 107 ballots presented by the Coleman side; from my non-scientific observation of the trial proceedings, Ms. Smith stated that less than five of these ballots were improperly rejected. Mr. Mansky and Mr. Corbid covered a much smaller and unequally distributed set of the proposed ballots, thus making any reasonable estimate impossible. With the possible exception of Anoka, any projection of a wrongful rejection rate is a complete shot in the dark. Regardless of the odds, there are still ballots meriting inclusion and it's entirely possible for Norm Coleman to retake the lead, although not necessarily probable.

To expedite the investigative process, it would make sense for the Election Contest Court to categorize and count the remaining absentee ballots meriting reconsideration. If upon this categorization and subsequent counting, the Coleman campaign still has a mathematical opportunity to win, the court should proceed by analyzing the category's most favorable to Coleman first. If a crucial category is eliminated from contention, the litigation ends and the candidate currently in the lead is issued an official election certificate.

I have not studied the legality of this proposed resolution.

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1 Response(s) to Coleman Allows Franken Latitude

2/10/2009 12:41:58 AM CT

I find it really disgusting though not surprising that Coleman didn't hold true to his own claim to Franken on election night that HE would concede if he were behind. It's costing the people of Minnesota in tax money and lack of representation while this farce drags out. It would not surprise me at all if voters in that state pushed hard for voting reform to eliminate recounts in favor of a run-off election.

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