A necessary step in the resolution to the Minnesota Senate race will take place this afternoon when the state Canvassing Board will certify the election results and declare Norm Coleman the winner. The action clears the way for Minnesota to begin the automatic recount tomorrow. The Canvassing Board will reject a demand from Al Franken’s campaign that they add in previously rejected ballots before certification, based on an opinion from the state’s AG:
DFLer Al Franken asked Monday to have rejected absentee ballots be considered in the U.S. Senate election results that are to be certified today by a state board, a move later blunted by an attorney general’s opinion that the issue should be left to the courts.
The eleventh-hour maneuvering occurred as the five-member state Canvassing Board prepared to meet at 1 p.m. today in St. Paul to review results showing Republican Sen. Norm Coleman with a lead of 215 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast.
That margin includes the canvassed results submitted by Minnesota’s 87 counties, plus an additional nine votes in Coleman’s favor that emerged from a post-election audit conducted in a sampling of about 200 precincts to check the accuracy of voting machines.
Franken’s brief wanted “improperly” rejected absentee ballots added back into the count, but that would have ground the entire process to a halt. It would have tied up Minnesota’s Canvassing Board for weeks while the Franken campaign challenged every rejected ballot. They have already lied about at least one of the ballots they used as an example of supposedly improper rejections, and we would have to wade through a veritable flood of fictional sob stories before we could get down to the business of recounts.
What does this mean for the recount? It will start on the assumption that the ballots counted are the only ones eligible, and only miscounts will change the results. That makes it more difficult for Franken to make up enough ground to catch Coleman. Most precincts used machine counts, which are highly accurate. A subsequent recount may shift votes slightly, but statistically speaking, the shifts should favor no candidate unduly — unlike the “errors” made after Election Night, whose corrections favored only Franken.
Without a doubt, Franken will wind up suing over the absentee ballots after the recount, but the recount has to take place first. The certification has to take place before the recount. Franken wants to turn that entire process on its head, demanding that clear election law be ignored in a desperate attempt to hijack the election. With that kind of attitude, Franken will certainly not blithely accept defeat, even a second time, without attempting to steal a Senate seat through the courts.
Update: The Canvassing Board has not yet rejected Franken’s request but is expected to do so when they meet today. I’ve adjusted the lead paragraph to note that.