Recount week in review: Good day for Franken, good job by Ritchie and whole Canvassing Board

Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
The State Canvassing Board — in particular, Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, left, and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie — handled recount issues well this week.

The bulk of the State Canvassing Board’s Senate race recount work was completed today, but the five-person group still has to address the status of a relative handful of challenges next week.

Still, it’s fair to say that Al Franken had a good day, and if the Franken campaign numbers can be trusted, the challenger has a lead over Norm Coleman that is bigger than the four votes his crew had previously stated.

That is, of the votes that have been counted.

Some media outlets are saying now that Franken holds a vote lead between 239 to 252; it’s likely significantly smaller than that when some still-unaccounted-for withdrawn challenges are allocated.

That solid, first “final” count should be available Monday or, perhaps, Tuesday, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. Then we’ll have a better number to get our arms around.

For sure, the board will meet Monday from 9 to 11 a.m.

Of the best vote tally, including all votes still in dispute, Ritchie said this afternoon: “We’re still a ways away from that.”

The Coleman side still believes it will win in the end, what with the still-to-be-counted rejected absentee ballots and the contentious matter of alleged duplicate votes.

Indeed, the last act of the day involved the Coleman campaign returning to the Minnesota Supreme Court to seek a temporary restraining order that would halt the canvassing board from counting any votes that could be duplicates. Soon after, the Franken campaign told the court it wants in on the discussion, too.

Quickly, the Supreme Court scheduled a hearing on the matter for Tuesday.

So, after a few days of watching the process — the show, really — here are some random observations — one person’s opinion, that’s all.

Mark Ritchie: When this recount started, the Coleman campaign questioned his fairness. He’s a DFLer. But the secretary of state has acquitted himself very well. “Incredibly fair,” is how Ritchie described the process, and it has sure seemed that way. He’s led the process. He should get good marks.

The Canvassing Board: Early on, some pundits were seeing some bias when the four judges split on some challenged ballot rulings. For sure, Ramsey County District Court Judge Edward Cleary seemed to more often take a position that could be viewed as favoring Franken. But only a smidgen’s worth. Otherwise, fairness abounded and …

Chief Justice Eric Magnuson: He’s been very Chiefly and smart and properly bossy and leaderific. When I appeal my next libel case, I want him to be the judge. Besides, how cool, a Supreme Court justice with a goatee.

Duplicates: Sure seems like there are some duplicates. Coleman’s side sued today to stop double counting. Franken side says the issue has been imagined by Coleman’s campaign. At least one election official in Minneapolis says Coleman guys are right.

Coleman thinks there are more than 100 of these double-counted ballots. Stay tuned. See you in court next week.

Rejected absentee ballots: The Supreme Court said this week the two campaigns need to cooperate on which rejected ballots should be counted. That’s a can of many worms.

The chance of Franken lawyer Marc Elias and Coleman lawyer Fritz Knaak agreeing on what time it is or whether it’s cold outside is minimal.

The Coleman campaign is relying on these votes now to get some additional numbers back on their side. This will be a complex, but critical, slice of the final tally.

January: Complete and total speculation, but … sure sounds like we won’t have a final Canvassing Board meeting until Jan. 2. Depending on the outcome of the recount, assume the losing side will go back to the Minnesota Supreme Court to keep the board from certifying the election.


That moves us to Jan. 3, when the current Congress expires.

Will Gov. Tim Pawlenty appoint someone in the interim?

Who would it be? One Republican insider today mentioned retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad.

It’s a good bet, though, that it wouldn’t be Coleman because he and Pawlenty aren’t bosom buddies.

Intriguing, rumor stuff.

Random kudos: Tip of the hat to The UpTake.org, which has been doing a marvelous job, on a shoestring, of webcasting. It is primitive sometimes. Today, the anchorman had a cell phone conversation with the channel’s reporter and relayed their conversation to the audience. It’s our very own and totally genuine local C-SPAN but with an attitude driven by the constant comments of its viewers.

Good news for junkies: Ritchie said today that the state’s official streaming of the canvassing board meetings won’t be available next week.

But The UpTake offered to stream the meetings with its equipment. At the post-meeting news conference, Ritchie said he was open to making The UpTake the official feed for the next canvassing board meetings.

It’s not a real recount if it’s not on TV, right? Congrats to the secretary of state for enabling the addiction of the growing community of the recount dependent.

Next fix next week.

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

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