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Franken-Coleman Senate recount recap: by the numbers

Finally, a full seven weeks after Election Day, it’s time to turn our attention from politics to the holidays, to migrate from the Two Perpetual Senate Candidates to the Three Wise Men … 

Oh, wait … could it have been Four Wise Men?

Call Mark Ritchie — we need a recount.

In the spirit of the 2008 U.S. Senate election, which in eight days will become the 2009 recount, let’s go to some end-of-the-year but not end-of-the-process numbers.

Spoiler Alert: As the film critics say — it’s not over. It won’t be until long after the Secretary of State and His Four Robed Canvassers sing their final certification.

That could happen Jan. 6. Could.

As for the court case after the certification … that will stretch deeper into January before either Franken walks down the Senate aisle, newly wedded to that great institution, or Coleman retains his seat by the thinnest whisker imaginable … and with some legal fancy footwork, some of which was on display Tuesday afternoon before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

That Coleman legal stuff is at high pitch because, for now, the numbers are leaning in Franken’s direction.

Oh, the numbers …

47: That’s how much it appears Franken is now ahead of Coleman before some other numbers are determined in January. It was a 48-vote margin, according to most major news outlets, going into today. During a canvassing board meeting this morning, Franken lost a vote. In Roseville.

“We see the [actual] number as much better,” said Coleman lawyer Fritz Knaak, but he wouldn’t say what he believes the margin is.

Knaak said that, until Ritchie’s office completely and finally reconciles all of its challenged-ballot spreadsheets, “What we’re dealing with is mush, not a lot of mush, a small amount of mush.”

At year’s end, the recount has turned to mush. Not good.

16: That’s how many previously withdrawn ballot challenges the Coleman campaign challenged again today before board.

It was a re-challenge to a previously challenged ballot amid the  recount.

Desperate times demand desperate measures. They did seem to grab that one vote out from Roseville out of that exercise.

Franken lawyer Marc Elias — who is, by the way, a rabid New York Giants fan, said afterward that, realizing it was behind 48 votes, the Coleman campaign threw “a last-second Hail Mary pass that was incomplete … We feel good about where we are.”

20: That’s how many votes Coleman lawyer Tony Trimble believes his side will gain over the next week.

“How?” you ask.

Both campaigns agree that there may be some clerical errors on the otherwise fastidious spreadsheets developed by the secretary of state’s office. Trimble said there were even “mistakes” of recording made on which candidate should have been given a vote in the spreadsheets.

Trimble said after the board meeting today that the apparent Franken lead will dwindle more before the year ends. By about 20 votes, he asserted. Let’s see. So far, Elias’ numerical predictions have been better than Knaak’s and Trimble’s. So far.

30: On Dec. 30, the canvassing board will meet again and then, finally, an official total of cast and recounted votes (including challenges) will be known.

Except for …

150 or so: Duplicates that Coleman believes exist from some double ballot counting, mostly in Minneapolis precincts.

Coleman lawyer Roger Magnuson today called the counting of ballots twice “unthinkable” when addressing the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Whether there were duplicates — and the Franken campaign says there aren’t — isn’t a matter for the canvassing board phase, the Franken side says. It’s for a post-certification legal fight.

Besides, they say, there’s no evidence of double-counting.

Magnuson and Franken lawyer William Pentelovitch were both hammered by the five-member Supreme Court panel during an afternoon hearing.

The court members seemed to be concerned that some votes were counted twice.

But Pentelovitch and a lawyer for Hennepin County said if the justices granted Coleman’s wish to examine the possibility of duplicate votes, it could trigger a rerun of the recount.

Call that possibility Recount 2.0 and consider it nothing more than a field day for bloggers worldwide and a tailor-made fundraiser for TheUpTake.org.

Magnuson pleaded: “This court ought not to remain passive.”

The election could turn on these potentially twice-counted votes, he said.

The court will soon rule. What it decides — either way — will be a matter for another court at another day.

1,600: This is the approximate number of rejected absentee ballots that haven’t been counted but that will be counted in early January.

The campaigns, some county elections officials and the secretary of state today suggested in a filing with the Supreme Court to count these ballots on Jan. 4 in St. Paul at Ritchie’s office.

The court hasn’t agreed yet to a process, but the recommendation from Ritchie, the officials and the campaigns requires both campaigns to agree that a ballot was improperly rejected.

If either side is particularly recalcitrant, it needs to put in writing why, and its lawyers could face sanctions for being wantonly obstreperous.

Ritchie said he’s confident the campaigns will show “good faith.”

What do you think?

5: The board will meet again on Jan. 5. In theory, it will review and hear challenges to any absentee ballots counted by Ritchie’s office.

Then — drum rolls, please — the board that day or the day after will certify the results of this recount a full two months after Minnesotans voted.

6: Jan. 6. The U.S. Senate convenes. Who will be Minnesota’s second senator? Will we have one? Not then, it seems.

0: That’s Secretary of State Ritchie’s bottom line right now. He and his office refuse to provide their count of how many votes the candidates have.

That 47 or 48, that’s the stuff of the mainstream media, which has been doing a great job on the horse race, by the way.

“I don’t do the horse race,” Ritchie said afterward. “When you have a recount, you only have one number, and that’s a final number.”

Mr. Secretary, we long for the day.

Jay Weiner can be reached at jweiner [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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