More Franken/Coleman: Still a nailbiter, but it looks good for Al

Carla Axtman

Via Senate Guru, the Franken camp issued a press release yesterday which declared their expectation of victory by a margin of 35-50 votes:

FRANKEN CAMPAIGN: WE EXPECT TO WIN BY 35-50 VOTES Campaign Releases New Internal Count Projecting Post-Recount Lead __________________________________________________________

SAINT PAUL [12/20/08] - The Franken campaign today released an update to its internal count and announced that it expected the reconciliation of withdrawn challenges next week to result in a 35-50 vote lead for Al Franken at the end of the recount.

Franken lead recount attorney Marc Elias:

"The work left for the state canvassing board to do next week - the re-allocation of withdrawn challenges - is work we have already done in our internal count, because that count has always assumed that all challenges will fail. On Tuesday, I will stand before you with that work completed. Al Franken will have a lead of between 35 and 50 votes. And, at some point not too long after that, Al Franken will stand before you as the Senator-Elect from Minnesota."

The Franken campaign's internal count before the state canvassing board began its work of reviewing challenges was based on the assumption that all challenges would fail. That internal count yielded a four vote lead for Al Franken.

However, multiple published reports support the fact that Franken challenges were of better quality than Coleman challenges, resulting in a widening of Franken's lead.

Published reports currently indicate a 260 vote lead for Franken, but also suggest uncertainty as to what will happen when withdrawn challenges are re-allocated to the candidate for whom the ballots were originally called.

But because the Franken methodology already assumed those ballots would end up in the tally of the candidate for whom each one was originally called, the internal count can predict the result of that work with certainty: a 35-50 vote lead for Franken.

Team Coleman has a whimper of a response that doesn't bother to refute Franken's numbers. Not a good sign for the GOPers hoping to hold this one.

The analysis by some on the right has been especially fascinating. Blogging for The Next Right, Patrick Ruffini reads as completely dispirited at the prospect of a Franken victory:

I don't think we can say that things are over yet in Minnesota, but we could be inching closer to another confirmation of the GOP's rock bottom status. If Al Franken is elected a Senator, I think we can officially say that things can't possibly get any worse.

Maaaan...been there, done that, speaking of things that "can't possibly get any worse."

What really intrigued me about Ruffini's post however, was the way it went on to sound like something I'd read at Black Box Voting. Ruffini writes:

We must insist on basic good government reforms to increase confidence in election results. Some of these might be done federally (as amendments to HAVA) and others will need to go state by state.

* Full electronic voting with a paper trail audit. There's a reason Paul Carmouche didn't challenge a 356-vote margin in LA-4: because the voting was 100% electronic. Critics have made good points about the lack of a paper trail on many of these machines. But MN-SEN shows that optical scan ballots, preferable only to hanging chads, are not fulproof. While plenty of bugs have been demonstrated on e-voting machines, there's no evidence (to date) of actual votes being mis-counted or lost -- and a paper trail should greatly improve the detection and resolution of these issues in real time.

* All ballots counted within 72 hours. It shouldn't take weeks to count absentees and provisionals. Let's set a reasonable window for counting every vote -- like 72 or 96 hours -- understanding that this might be different in states that are largely vote-by-mail.

* Zero tolerance for lost-and-found votes. Negligence in handling voted ballots should be made a misdemeanor offense at a minimum. Election officials should pay heavy fines and face removal for incidents like the 133 "lost" Minneapolis ballots. Heavy legal penalties should be a deterrent to "losing" ballots that are then "found" at convenient points in a recount.

* An open election results standard. I want this for other reasons, but a bunch of tech people should get together to formulate a standard for the reporting of real-time precinct election results in XML that also covers 1) reporting status of absentees and provisionals, and 2) historical precinct data, including notional numbers from census block counts for re-precincted areas. For all precincts, we should know how many voters are registered to get a real sense of voter turnout as well as how many people voted in this precinct in the last few elections. Practically, this means that the spotting of anomalies can be crowd sourced to the online community. If turnout seems abnormally high or low for a precinct, we can know in real time.

He's worded it a little differently and come at it from a different perspective, but a bunch of this stuff is the same thing that progressives have been insisting on for years. Apparently it took the GOP getting their asses handed to them--but we should take it and run. Voting reform should be enacted--and perhaps now the GOP are finally in the mood to see it happen.

  • RogueDem (unverified)

    Forget the electronic voting, at this point there are way too many problems. No system is or can be perfect but the optical scan has a built in paper trail and is currently the best available system. But, yeah, the hypocrisy is always fun to see. If they had recounted Florida in 2000 like the recount in Minn., we most probably would have had a President Gore. It is a pretty simple idea, count all the votes and try as best as possible to follow the will of the voter, e.g. a ballot marked for Al Gore and with Al Gore written in as well counts as a vote for Al Gore, seems obvious but in 2000 those votes were thrown out.

  • (Show?)

    As some wag on Fark put it, "Franken projected to win Senate recount because he's alright, he's not retarded, and doggonit, people are sick of this election".

    But the best comment on the whole Fark thread was this one, reprising the opening statement of George Galloway in Senate testimony to Coleman, as Coleman tried to channel McCarthy. Coleman got spanked badly.

  • John Emerson (unverified)

    I've been tracking the "stolen election" on the internet and every myth that's been put out there is still alive. For example, the "ballots found in the trunk of a car". Pawlenty himself denied this one on national TV, but it's immortal.

    I knock them down as much as I can, but the "stolen election" meme will explode when and if Franken wins (not a sure thing at all).

    BTW I'm a Minnesotan who spent a long time in Oregon, and you should all visit my brother's bipartisan cafe on 79th and SE Stark. Democrat-friendly, child-friendly, Stumptown coffee, homemade pie.

    This has been a commercial message. I'll get a free cup of coffee when I get to Portland.

  • ws (unverified)

    This will be something if Franken actually wins by 35-50 votes. I haven't paid that much attention to the race, but early on, it seemed kind of unlikely that he could get elected. Just the idea that he would run for office seemed something like joke of Pat Paulsens run for president back in....a long time ago. Anyway, I hope they get this figured out soon. The suspense is kind of heavy.

  • (Show?)

    Keep up the good fight, John. Remember: extremists like to live in their own self-invented fantasy world. So it's a never-ending job to make sure their lies are refuted with facts in any forum where people, not familiar with the facts, might be deceived by them.

    I salute you for your hard work in this thankless task.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)


    I take back everything I said about a 3 vote margin looking unseemly.

    It's been 20 years since the New Yorker article, "The Dangers of Computerized Voting", which was followed by an interview with the author on CBS. The statement, "When it comes to computerized elections, there are no safeguards. It's not a door without locks, it's a house without doors", dates from then. Since then there have been a plethora of data about the problem. Why isn't there the will to do something? Why wasn't the behavior Carla mentions criminalizing always illegal? Obviously something that needs to change hasn't.

  • AdmiralNaismith (unverified)

    I knock them down as much as I can, but the "stolen election" meme will explode when and if Franken wins (not a sure thing at all).

    Sure, just like it exploded on George Bush and Christina Gregoire.

    Once Franken's win is certified, he should lead as though he has a 70% mandate, and by 2014 he'll be a great bet for re-election.

  • (Show?)

    Excellent point about looking for cooperation to get needed reforms, Carla.

    Unfortunately it seems like a tough row to hoe in terms of mutual suspicions & derogations of other side's suspicions.

    Somehow awareness of past concerns has to be both kept alive to help identify problems and bracketed in favor of a fundamentally forward-looking posture.

    And the who of it all isn't too clear.

  • Pedro (unverified)

    1) The single most important thing to come out of the 2008 Minnesota Senate race is how honest and well run elections are in the State of Minnesota. We here in Oregon have a pretty good system as well. I would love to have an extended conversation with Bill Bradbury about what would happen if we were in a similar situation here.

    2) I actually sent Al $100.00 and really hope that he wins. However, for Al to be winning or losing by less than 500 votes in 2008 with strong Libertarian in the race means that he was a rotten choice to run against a weak incumbent like Coleman. Now Al worked hard and did all the right things but he never was able to shake the "vulgar NY comedian" label in many voters minds. The woman in NC that unseated Liddy Dole had no such baggage to overcome and was able to actually win based on the issues not her personality.

    3) The time is now. If this election was in a state without all the honest rules that local officials appear to be following, Coleman would have stolen re-election. This year while we have the White House, the Senate, and the House we need to to have real election reform legislation.

  • John Emerson (unverified)

    If things go well Franken will have 6 years to shake his fictitious persona, and I expect him to succeed. Franken was a good candidate for me, but not really for the state. Too many Minnesota Democrats are nice church ladies for Franken to have been a good candidate. (But it's nice living in a place where the church ladies are often Democrats).

    It's amazing how many Republicans really and truly believed that Stuart Smalley was the candidate. They aren't necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    It's amazing how many Republicans really and truly believed that Stuart Smalley was the candidate. They aren't necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed.

    Yeah, if Obama had wanted to rig the election, he would have picked Tim Kaine to be his running mate; would have thrown the right into total disarray.

    It's amazing how many Republicans really and truly believed that Stuart Smalley was the candidate.

    Actually , that is the better example I needed on the "A Year Late Ron Wyden Gets His Report Thread", when I said, "When a sizable majority still look at someone and get a feeling, then vote their impressions, what can we expect? You can expect to hear people say, 'oh, Jesse Ventura...look at him; I could never vote for anybody like that'. "

  • Albert Kaufman (unverified)

    The latest! Al's up by 48

  • John Emerson (unverified)

    Here are some links for people talking about a stolen election. John Lott is not reliable, and in his most recent piece he relied on an inaccurate Star Tribune story.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Now Coleman is saying he'll sue. What about an adjustment to the procedure that says you can have one recount and court challenges, but if you have a second recount, you agree to be bound by the result.

  • rw (unverified)

    I am so glad that Franken has persisted in this effort. It has to be established that when we have a question, we do NOT just go to a court that makes a decision based in theories and probabilities, we COUNT THE VOTE and go by what the vote has said.

    I look forward to the day when we find out what really is the story on Al Gore giving in. One day in the decades to come, we will learn the rest of that story. It could be exactly what he said in the press, and it could be a whole lot of nothing. It also may be made in heaven for our suspicious li'l non-conservative minds!

    Good for Al. I'm glad he stayed in all the way to the completion of this process. I have not been watching this closely - I wonder if he is doing this for his own good, to get the seat, or is he also making a point about the electoral process, participatory democracy and exposing for educational purposes exactly what our process is, end to end, around elections cast in doubt.

    I hope the LATTER with all my geeky heart. Wish I lived in his state. I'd be down in the middle of it. But from here, I do not trust my ability to know the story - it's all coming via media.


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