Minnesota Recount: Another 171 ballots suddenly appear

posted at 2:20 pm on December 2, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

You know what the Minnesota recount really needs?  A bunch of uncounted ballots appearing out of thin air.  A Maplewood precinct discovered 171 ballots that didn’t get counted on Election Night:

Recount officials in Ramsey County found 171 ballots today that weren’t counted on election night.

The county’s Elections Manager Joe Mansky says an optical scan vote counting machine broke down in Maplewood during the initial count.

It was replaced, but local election judges didn’t run some of the ballots through the new machine.

There’s a good news/bad news aspect to this. The bad news is obvious — the precincts may still “discover” uncounted ballots, which means that more uncertainty gets thrown into the race.  It could also bolster Franken’s chances to get the US Senate to intervene in the election, although that still seems like a long shot.

The good news is that the Maplewood precinct isn’t a big Franken area.  Franken did win the precinct, but only by 6 points over Coleman.  If the 171 ballots split in the same manner as the rest of the precinct did, Franken would get 78 votes, Coleman 67, and Independent Party candidate Dean Barkley the rest.  That’s only an 11-vote pickup for Franken.

MPR has more bad news for Franken.  The Minnesota Secretary of State has released about a sixth of the ballots contested by both sides, and MPR notes that Coleman has a significant lead in valid contests — although they also report that most of the challenges are “frivolous”:

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office has released copies of 1,000 of the contested ballots so far, and in the vast majority of cases it’s easy to tell whether the voter intended to vote for Coleman or Franken.

Minnesota state law lays out rules for determining a voter’s intent, and it says if the ballot is valid and the intent is clear, then the vote counts. Minnesota Public Radio reporters used those guidelines, and examined all 1,000 ballots.

About 350 were clearly votes for Coleman. 330 were clear Franken votes. Another 100 or so wouldn’t go to either candidate under state law. That left only 206 ballots where the law didn’t provide clear guidance about what to do with the vote.

MPR provides a sample of ten ballots from yesterday’s effort and the ability to vote on each one.  In my opinion, almost all of them should be rejected.  Voters have the ability to get a fresh ballot if they make a mistake, so any ballot with multiple selections and cross-outs should get the heave-ho.  The same can be said for people who put an X or a circle around either candidate but filled in the bubbles properly on other races.  Without clear intent, the ballot should get tossed in regards to this race.  I’d only accept a couple of these ballots, and they split evenly for Franken and Coleman.

If MPR sees a Coleman advantage in the challenges based on a 1/6th sample, it portends a disappointing finish for Team Franken.  It looks like Coleman won this race.


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