Franken wins big at Canvassing Board

The State Canvassing Board made two important rulings Friday morning, both potentially big wins for the Al Franken campaign.

The board has decided to count the missing 133 ballots from a Minneapolis precinct over the objections of the Norm Coleman campaign that lost ballots couldn’t be recounted. According to the machine count done on Election Night, Franken won among those ballots by 46 votes. Friday’s Canvassing Board’s unanimous decision to go by the Election Night count means Franken keeps that 46-vote advantage.

Secondly, and potentially more significant, the board unanimously encouraged every county to sort its pile of rejected absentee ballots, look for those that were disqualified improperly, open and count those ballots and report the revised results to the state board.

Some counties have already done the sorting, others have indicated they wanted a clearer signal from the Canvassing Board. The board was advised that it had no authority to order the counties to do this, so it settled for language encouraging them to do so. Although some counties have been reluctant, Secretary of State mark Ritchie said most counties are anxious to correct errors made in the handling of absentee ballots.

Based on a projection from those counties that have reexamined their absentee ballots, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann projected that there may be 1,587 wrongfully rejected absentee ballots statewide.

Although there’s no way to predict how those votes will break down since Franken  has been trailing among the ballots counted so far, it’s in his interest to create a pool of over 1,500 new votes to be counted. Franken recount lawyer Marc Elias called it “a great day.” The Coleman campaign said it would comment on the morning’s developments later today.

And I will put up an analysis on the board’s decisions this afternoon.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Todd Pitman on 12/12/2008 - 12:13 pm.

    All the media outlets keep saying “Big win for Franken,” “Franken wins big,” etc…

    The real winner here is the voters.

  2. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 12/12/2008 - 12:41 pm.

    I don’t know whether the decisions of the State Canvassing Board today really mean a “big win” for Al Franken, but I do know they are a big win for Minnesota voters.

    My only concern is about those 133 lost ballots. Can these votes be verified in some way? Can the people who cast them be found and contacted? This would be an even better confirmation than paper and would put to rest any suggestion that these votes appeared out of thin air.

  3. Submitted by Erich Russell on 12/12/2008 - 12:59 pm.

    I agree that your synopsis accurately reflects what the Board loosely intended to do. I wonder whether they haven’t opened Padora’s Box. I did not hear any clear authority directed to the city clerks or county boards to open absentee ballots signed off as rejected by two ballot judges. My sense is that one or more of the Board really conceived of these ballot envelopes as contested. Otherwise how do the campaigns contest votes? Regardless, it was startling to hear the Chief Justice charged with courts administration remind the partisan campaigns that they could assert their respective positions regarding the rejected ballots county by county in separate district court actions attempting to mandate an amendment or non-amendment (of what?) in lawsuits in their chosen venues (and expect resolution by next week). This is getting Floridaesque.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/12/2008 - 03:19 pm.

    “Larry Linn says: Who does Al Franken think he is? George W. Bush?”
    The basic difference is that Franken is asking that Minnesota state law be followed.
    Bush, on the other hand, asked that the Constitutional right of states (in this case the Florida Supreme Court) to govern elections be set aside.

  5. Submitted by Mike Kluznik on 12/12/2008 - 03:27 pm.

    Will we survive the agonizing recount of ’08? History says yes. Back during the Rolvaag vs. Andersen recount of ’62, a friend of mine named Ron was stationed on the U.S.S. Enterprise in the Mediterranean fleet. One day the on-board radio station was giving an update of events back in the states. Of the still undecided Minnesota governor’s race, he said that the razor close vote count had been plagued from the start when state officials had to wait a few days for the ballots to come in from the Northwest Angle by dogsled; this was in pre-snowmobile days, and apparently an early blizzard only made things worse. The dj, who I imagine might have been an Adrian Kronauer “Good Morning Vietnam” type, said that thankfully the recount was nearing an end.
    The dj then transitioned into a music selection. His segue went something like this, “This next track is a new release by a new Minnesota group, The Trashmen, and we’re playing it in honor of the good people of the Northstar State and their struggle to elect a governor.” With that he introduced the Enterprise’s crew to “Surfin’ Bird,” surely the strangest rock song ever recorded.
    When the song ended, Ron happened to be seated in the mess hall next to a buddy from some southern state. Amused and somewhat perplexed by it all, the southerner drawled to Ron, “Surfin’ Bird? Voting by dogsled? What in the ding-dong-heckama-doodle-hell kind of a state do you live in anyway?”
    We survived the long recount of ’62, sled dogs delivering ballots and The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird. Trust me, we’ll get through the current mess.

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/12/2008 - 03:40 pm.

    eric paul jacobsen writes
    “My only concern is about those 133 lost ballots. Can these votes be verified in some way? Can the people who cast them be found and contacted? This would be an even better confirmation than paper and would put to rest any suggestion that these votes appeared out of thin air.”

    No, they can’t be verified, that’s the whole argument. The machine says there were 133 more votes than there are paper ballots. The voter sign-in sheet agrees with the machine count. But there is no way to determine which 133 people’s ballots are missing – which is the whole point of the secret ballot, that a vote cannot be tied to an individual.

  7. Submitted by John E Iacono on 12/13/2008 - 01:55 pm.

    I, too, share concern about the missing ballots decision.

    The whole purpose of the paper ballots being kept in sealed containers is to acknowledge that the machines are subject to tampering — in this case by simply running a number of ballots through twice. The machine does not mark or punch a ballot so it cannot be re-entered (it should, and the mark would also prevent “adding” ballots in case of a recount), so is easily subject to this kind of manipulation.

    The process of storing those paper ballots is leak-proof, if the rules are followed. If we assume they were, the lack of those paper ballots is the very proof that the rules were intended to provide that the machines had been “adjusted” in some unallowable way.

    If the paper ballots, the sign-ins on the registry, and the machine counts do not match, this is prima facie evidence of ballot tampering by removing paper ballots unlawfully or by re-running ballots through the machine, and I believe those machine ballots should NOT be counted. The paper ballots should prevail, as they are intended to do.

    I write this as an election judge familiar with the rules for the handling of ballots.

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