Searching Absentees for Registration

The past week of litigation proceedings produced very little new information, but a few items of note did occur that I have not previously covered. To begin, an additional group of 30 voters has filled a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court to order that their votes cast on November 4th be counted. The majority of these voters reside in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, in about equal portions; this leaves six voters who reside in other counties. This group of 30 voters is represented by Charles Nauen, the same lawyer representing the other group of 61 petitioners.

The second item of note involves the testimony of Pamella Howell, a Republican Election Judge from Minneapolis Ward 12, Precinct 8 within Hennepin County. Al Franken won the precinct in question by about 46%, netting 1,947 of the 2,936 votes cast. Ms. Howell was called to the stand by the Coleman campaign to discuss the 14 vote discrepancy between the total number of voters and the recorded number of votes. During her testimony, the judges struck Ms. Howell's testimony after it was discovered that the Coleman campaign had not shared pertinent information with the Franken campaign. The court later vacated their order, after the Coleman campaign requested a reconsideration.

The liberal leaning Talking Point Memo declared that the original striking order "unambiguously damaged" Coleman's double counting argument; how they arrived at this assertion remains blatantly unclear. There are 1,391 votes meeting the Coleman campaign's definition of double counting, and just 14 fall within Ms. Howell's jurisdiction. The fact that a single election judge's testimony, covering about 1% of Coleman's claim, was ruled to have been semi-improperly conducted does not dissuade from the double counting issue in any way shape or form. There are still 356 other potentially anomalous precincts meriting consideration by the Coleman campaign.

The Coleman campaign is playing the expectations game, and they may have just won round one based upon TPM's original assertion. If the striking of Ms. Howell's testimony was a big deal, then the vacation must therefore be an equally big deal. Because of the added drama surrounding Ms. Howell's testimony, the information she provide[s|d], will be subjected to a higher level of inspection. Unfortunately for TPM, their over exaggeration backfired, as Ms. Howell's story turns out to be true. Had TPM simply reported the news, instead of inferring their hopes/opinions, the talking point could have been different. It is said that realism has a strong liberal bias, so why embellish the story?

Now onto the actual news; on Thursday, the Election Contest Court commissioned a search for registration cards within sealed absentee ballots. Their entire order is presented below:

In order to expedite proceedings in this action, county or local election officials ("officials"), who have custody of rejected absentee ballots submitted for the November 4,2008 general election are hereby directed to complete the following procedure no later than 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, 2009:

1. The officials shall segregate the rejected absentee ballots listed on the attached list. Once segregated, the officials shall open each ballot secrecy envelope containing the absentee ballot of each identified voter to determine whether the envelope contains a voter registration card or application ("registration''). In doing so, the officials, to the extent possible, shall refrain from looking at the ballot itself or observing any markings thereon and shall conduct the review so as to maintain the security of the ballots and to preserve ballot secrecy.

2. If no registration is found, the officials shall reseal the ballot envelope using tape or sticker over the opening and reinsert the ballot secrecy envelope back into the absentee ballot return envelope.

3. If a registration is found within the ballot secrecy envelope, the officials shall remove it, determine whether it is complete, make a copy of the registration, and return it to the ballot secrecy envelope, which shall be resealed. The ballot secrecy envelope shall then be placed back inside the absentee ballot return envelope. If the registration is deficient, the officials shall note on the outside of the absentee ballot return envelope the specific nature of the deficiency. The notations shall be dated and include the name of the officials making the notations which shall be made on the side of the envelope that does not include the voter's information.

4. The envelopes shall be sorted into three groups as follows:

a. Envelopes containing completed registrations.
b. Envelopes containing deficient registrations.
c. Envelopes containing no registrations.

5. For each of the groups, the officials shall prepare a separate list that includes the name of the county or municipality, the precinct and the name of the voter. The list of envelopes containing incomplete or deficient registrations shall specify the deficiency found with respect to each envelope.

6. The officials shall forward electronically the lists and the copy of each registration found in the envelopes in groups referenced in paragraphs 5 a, and b. of this order to Jim Gelbmann, Office of the Secretary of State at If a particular office of an official lacks the capability to forward the information electronically, the official shall contact Jim Gelbmann at the Office of the Secretary of State, (651) 201-1344, for alternative instructions concerning transmittal of the lists and copies to the Court.

8. All of the opened and resealed envelopes shall be securely maintained in their separate groups to facilitate transportation to a central location for review, if the Court should so order.

9. The Secretary of State 'shall immediately forward this Order electronically to affected county and local election officials.

10. Neither party shall have a representative present at the counties during this process.

11. The parties consent to this procedure by their signatures on this order.

Dated: 2/26/09

Source: Order for Opening Secrecy Envelopes via [PDF]

I've parsed through the attached list of 1,526 unique voters, and produced the following documents to allow for a more efficient dissemination of the information contained therein:

Court Filing: PDF, 757 KB
Voter List: CSV, 42 KB
Ballots by County: CSV, 2 KB
Extrapolations: PDF, 144 KB

I've further condensed the above information into the table below, using the assumption that each vote will eventually be counted:

                       Identified        Extrapolation
                         Voters       Coleman      Franken
Total                     1526         634.78      638.79
    Coleman Counties       896         428.86      311.98
    Franken Counties       630         205.93      326.82

While the list contains more ballots from counties/municipalities that Coleman won, Franken is still expected to gain about 4 more votes under the previous assumption. A completely accurate projection is however impossible, because, like everything else during the recount, the only way to know for certain is to count, or in this case sort. We should know more about this list on Wednesday, when the counties/municipalities are required to conclude their court ordered sorting.

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