Or, as Dr. John Lott explains in his latest column, Minnesota may avoid the distinction of being the latest poster state for voter fraud if elections officials can take control of the process quickly.  John notes that the additional votes “discovered” for Al Franken against Norm Coleman seem suspicious, especially since they involve mainly three precincts out of over four thousand:

Virtually all of Franken’s new votes came from just three out of 4130 precincts, and almost half the gain (246 votes) occurred in one precinct — Two Harbors, a small town north of Duluth along Lake Superior — a heavily Democratic precinct where Obama received 64 percent of the vote. None of the other races had any changes in their vote totals in that precinct.

To put this change in perspective, that single precinct’s corrections accounted for a significantly larger net swing in votes between the parties than occurred for all the precincts in the entire state for the presidential, congressional, or state house races.

The two other precincts (Mountain Iron in St. Louis county and Partridge Township in Pine county) accounted for another 100 votes each. The change in each precinct was half as large as the pickup for Obama from the corrections for the entire state.

The likelihood of this occurence seems outlandishly small.  John doesn’t discount the possibility that all of the corrections could favor one candidate, or that all of the mistakes involve less than 0.1% of all the precincts in Minnesota.  It is, however, suspicious as hell, especially with the “discovery” of 32 absentee ballots in the car of a poll worker.

Lott saw some of the same shenanigans in Washington in 2004, during the hotly contested gubernatorial race that saw Dino Rossi’s election-day win snatched out of his hands.  Minnesota has something going for it that Washington lacked, however — a superior voting process:

Indeed, it is probably through the discovery of new votes that Franken has his best shot of picking up new votes. Despite the press pushing a possible replay of election judges divining voters’ intentions by looking at “hanging chads” to see if voters meant to punch a hole, that shouldn’t be an issue in Minnesota. The reason is simple: optical scan vote counting machines return ballots to voters if no vote is recorded for a contested race.

The Associated Press piece with the title “Most Minn. Senate ‘undervotes’ are from Obama turf” misinformed readers about what undervotes really imply. The Minneapolis Star Tribune headline similarly claimed “An analysis of ballots that had a vote for president but no vote for U.S. senator could have recount implications.”

Voters themselves insert their ballot into the machine that reads and records their votes, and if the machine finds that a vote isn’t recorded, voters can either mark the race that they forgot to mark or didn’t mark clearly. Or if voters “overvoted” and accidentally marked too many candidates, voters can also get a fresh ballot. There should be no role to divine voters’ intentions. If a voter wanted a vote recorded for a particular race, the machine tells him whether his vote in all the races was counted.

Undervotes come from voters who decide not to cast votes in certain races.  A small percentage of voters will choose not to vote for a Senate candidate, even if they voted in the presidential race, and vice versa.  In fact, John notes that the undervote count for the presidency was 0.4% this year in Minnesota, and the undervote count for the Senate 0.8%.  Congressional undervote rates exceeded 3%.  That in itself has no implications at all for recounts, as John notes; if they wanted to vote in these races, voters had both the opportunity and the expertise to do so, and chose to ignore them.

Hopefully, John’s right about this.  We just had another shift in the vote gap, this time from 221 — which is where we were at when John wrote this piece — to 204 today.  That should be the final tally when the counties certify the results and allow the recount to take place.  Hopefully, we will get an honest process and result, which is better than what we’ve seen over the last few days.

Update: King Banaian has more thoughts, including a reminder that a typo in the hundreds place (as was one explanation of the shifts) is one mistake, not a hundred separate ones.  Still, this looks quite suspicious, and King has a couple of other updates as well.