MN-Sen: Undervotes Favor Franken

With each passing day, Norm Coleman's lead, currently 206, slips further into obscurity as the final canvassing concludes. No amount of crying, here, here and here, by Norm Coleman will change the fact that the final canvassing total often differs from the election night tally; as evidenced in a document released by the Franken campaign. If you want further evidence, a quick glance to our previous post, illustrates a perceived inequality with relation to the expected trend and the actual result.

	       4:21 AM       Proj       Actual      Diff.
   Franken      80,600      92,990      88,620     -4,370
   Barkley      20,550      23,415      22,652      -914
   Coleman      55,840      63,650      61,513     -2,137

Drawing from the table, Coleman may continue to bleed votes as these four northern counties continue to finalize their vote tally in preparation for the automatic recount. But even if Franken cannot close the 206 vote advantage Norm Coleman currently holds, Franken may be able to make up ground in the undervotes. Undervotes occur when the ballot reading optical scanner fails to record a vote in a given race, in this case the Senate race.

Using data provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State for the presidential and senate elections, I tabulated a massive grid with data from each of Minnesota's 87 counties.

I took this data and calculated the discrepancy between Presidential votes and Senate votes, it turned out to be 24,830; in other words, 24,830 people cast a vote for President, but did not cast a machine defined vote in the Senatorial election. This number represents a maximum number of undervotes that could possibly exist (technically it could be more, but its statistically improbable); in reality it is likely fewer. There are three scenario's that could result in a vote being marked as an undervote by the optical scanner; perhaps the person legitimately did not vote for a Senate candidate, there may have been a random malfunction or perhaps the voter failed to adequately mark their Minnesota ballot as depicted below:

Undervote Examples

The three above instances clearly demonstrate the intent to vote, but would still none the less be classified as undervotes. It is these instances which could very well allow Franken to surpass Coleman upon the conclusion of these undervotes in the impending recount.

Using the previously collated data table, I concluded that there is a maximum of 18,328 undervotes present in counties won by Obama, but this isn't news, the Associated Press beat me to it, but I still have more to offer. This tilt towards Obama translates into a rather large lead for Franken in counties that have a high number of undervotes. If a uniform distribution of undervotes exists in each of Minnesota's 87 counties and the current trend holds in each county, Franken could pull ahead if just slightly less than 40% of the potential undervotes are infact undervotes. Franken will likely win the recount if the trends hold and there are 9,848 undervotes evenly distributed across the state.

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5 Response(s) to MN-Sen: Undervotes Favor Franken

11/10/2008 9:47:25 PM CT

As a MN voter, I have to believe that a large number of people voted against Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken, while a smaller number actually voted for either of them. Similarly, total disgust with the senatorial race could have been validated by not voting. I suspect the recount will prove the undervote balance much closer.
11/11/2008 1:38:46 AM CT

I think that Franken is a wonderful candidate and that the ads by Coleman were malicious. Coleman is such a slimy character--there I said what I really know to be true, even if inflammatory. Maybe people did not care, but I know a lot who did.
11/11/2008 1:49:56 AM CT

thanks for your work
mn voter
11/11/2008 8:32:47 PM CT

It will be interesting to see what happens next. I almost wish there could be a re-vote to minimize the legal battles that will surely come as a result of such a close race. Franken still has a chance though and that's great news!
Tom and Anna Kieselbach
11/19/2008 6:48:18 PM CT

Your analysis is incredible. We greatly enjoy your work.

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