The Strib’s recount margin, explained

As recount junkies know, the Star Tribune’s recount totals differs from everyone else’s. They update theirs constantly while most of the rest rely on the Secretary of State’s 8 p.m. update.

How does the Strib’s system work?

Computer-Assisted Reporting Editor Glenn Howatt says the paper has a network of reporters and news assistants who call in precinct results when they get them. Arrangements with several city and county clerks add to the running totals.

There are basically three different kinds of information in the Strib charts:

1. Information the Strib has but the Secretary of State’s site hasn’t posted. The paper chunks that info into their database whenever they get it.

2. Information the Strib has but the Secretary of State updates at 8 p.m. This is a subset of #1. Howatt says if the SoS numbers differ from the Strib’s, the paper tosses its numbers and substitutes the state’s.

3. Information the Secretary of State updates that the Strib doesn’t have. Try as it might, the paper doesn’t get info from every precinct. So it will fill in its blanks with each night’s update.

The number in Strib’s morning stories will almost always differ from the “official” one because its database contains more precincts after the 8 p.m. update.

As fun as the running total is to watch, Howatt says one of the biggest reasons the Strib keeps its own ledger is to identify potential stories.

“We’re looking for big changes,” he says. “In one precinct yesterday, in Carver County, Coleman went down 10, and there were 10 ballots challenged by Franken. We’re looking at those things.”

Howatt says as the recount slows down in coming days, the paper will attempt more detailed analyses, such as a precise count of who the challenged ballots favor (not just which campaign did the challenging).

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