I suppose if we had a normal adult allotment of patience, we would all just let the recount roll out at its magisterial pace and see what happens. But what fun is that?
The latest smart peek into the past, present and future of Minnesota Senate recounts comes from the always perspicacious Larry Jacobs of the U of M’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.
In a paper published on the Web Thursday, Jacobs compared this year’s photo finish with the post-Election Day history of the Minnesota U.S. Senate races in 2000 (Mark Dayton over Rod Grams) and 20006 (Amy Klobuchar over Mark Kennedy). He noted several patterns that tended to contradict some of the commentary, complaining and hype surrounding this year’s post-election. For example, Jacobs found that:
• The change between the count reported by the media on Election Day and the official count released by the Canvassing Board a few days later (in which tabulation and reporting errors were fixed) was smaller in 2008 than in the previous years. (This runs contrary to a certain amount of alarm expressed by Republicans and conservative commentators last week when Norm Coleman’s Election Day lead of 762 votes dropped to 215 before the official recount even began. In the other previous Senate races, there was more movement in the vote totals, but no one noticed much because there was no possibility that the changes would change the outcome or even trigger a recount.
• In both previous cases, the changes were in favor of the Democratic candidates, Dayton and Klobuchar. Both of those races occurred when Republican Mary Kiffmeyer was secretary of state, which also undermines the suspicion that perhaps Al Franken was gaining ground on Coleman because the election was under the supervision of DFLer Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. In his paper, Jacobs offered no theory as to why Democrats gained ground in all three cases he studied.
• In fact, Jacobs wrote, if Franken’s gain relative to Coleman in the pre-recount adjustments had been proportionate to the gains of Dayton and Klobuchar, Franken would have entered the recount with a lead of well into four figures, instead of trailing by 215.
• Lastly, Jacobs noted a trend from the 2000 and 2006 races that may be repeating in 2008, namely that rather than vote totals going up, they go down. In 2006, all three major party Senate candidates had fewer votes in the official tally than they had in the Election Night media reports (but Republican Kennedy declined the most, which is why Klobuchar’s lead grew). Of course, I don’t suppose people care much at the moment whether Coleman and Franken’s totals go up or down in absolute terms. At this stage, it’s all about whether the lead changes hands.