MPR: Franken challenges more bogus

Although absentee and missing ballots may yet vault Al Franken into the U.S. Senate, it’s no secret he needs to have higher-quality challenges to close his current 344-vote deficit with Norm Coleman.

Instead, Coleman’s challenges are better, a new MPR analysis indicates.

The station looked at 1,000 contested ballots released by the Secretary of State — about a sixth of the current total — and determined 350 were “clearly” Coleman votes versus 330 for Franken.

If Franken was right and Coleman’s challenges more frivolous, Coleman’s number would be lower. (Another 100 votes went to neither man, and 206 were unclear. Franken might hope to gain in the latter pile, but that’s highly unlikely.)

Bottom line: if this substantial sample holds true, Coleman’s lead would likely increase after the State Canvassing Board meets. And that would greatly lengthen Franken’s already-long odds of winning via absentees and missing ballots.

Update: Via Twitter, Jeff Rosenberg offers a fair caveat — we don’t know how representative the 1,000-ballot sample is. The pile may contain more Franken challenges, which would inflate Coleman’s “clear” numbers, even though the Republican has challenged more ballots.

My only comeback is that one-sixth is a large sample size, so the SoS pile is more likely to be representative.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Bill Wareham on 12/02/2008 - 10:30 am.

    I would caution against trying to making the 1,000 ballots too representative of the remainder, at least for divining the gap between Coleman and Franken.

    As one of the people who analyzed hundreds of them last night, I found wide variation in quantity and quality of challenges from county to county. In some counties the challenges were relatively even, in others they shifted heavily toward one candidate or the other.

    I feel pretty safe in predicting that there will be thousands of frivolous challenges coming from both sides – barring some sort of disarmament agreement – but wouldn’t hazard a guess on which side will prove the bigger transgressor.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 12/02/2008 - 10:48 am.

    Bill –

    I appreciate you might not want your fine, even-handed news operation associated with my tendentious headline. And I don’t disagree that there are tons of frivolous challenges on both sides, and the balance may shift as the remaining challenges are assayed.

    However, it’s highly significant than in such a large sample, Franken not only didn’t have an advantage in frivolousness, he was actually behind. He has to pick up about 60 votes per thousand to close the current gap, and instead he loses 20 on the first thousand. Any stat guy will tell you that’s huge.

    Again, I appreciate you showing restraint and perspective here, and spending all that time! You’re on solid ground, while I’m doing informed speculation.

  3. Submitted by Bill Wareham on 12/02/2008 - 11:07 am.

    As someone who is pro-informed speculation, I applaud your recklessness, even if I don’t engage in it.

    What you say in your reply is true – Franken’s climb gets a little steeper if our analysis holds. But not because it’s a representative sample; that is, one from which you can project the probable distribution of the remaining challenges.

    Instead, you’re right that it’s significant because he has to make up more ground from a smaller pool of remaining ballots.

    My work is done here. I’ll go back to picking nits in my own shop.

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