Minnesota Recount: Board prepared to declare Franken the winner; Update: Alert the media

This comes as no surprise to anyone following the recount — and the vote swing from both the challenges and the absentee ballots.  The Canvassing Board will declare its work complete and report that Al Franken leads Norm Coleman by 225 votes, but don’t expect the election to be quite over yet:

The state Canvassing Board was posed to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota’s grueling Senate election in Al Franken’s favor — but that doesn’t mean the race is definitely over.

The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

But after the announcement, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an election certificate is completed. If any lawsuits are filed during that waiting period, certification is conditional until the issue is settled in court.

Coleman, who led Franken on election night, hasn’t ruled out a lawsuit challenging the results, claiming there were irregularities that gave Franken an unfair advantage.

We’ll almost certainly see a contest from Coleman, but he’ll have to overcome a substantial impulse from the court to give the Canvassing Board and the counties the benefit of the doubt.  Judges are loath to overturn elections unless they can rest that decision on some pretty clear-cut malfeasance or incompetence, and I’m not sure Coleman can point to either here.  His team may not have liked some of the decisions made by the Canvassing Board, but they didn’t appear terribly unreasonable or unfair either.

His best bet may be the inconsistencies in challenge resolutions and the lack of a statewide, uniform standard in addressing the absentee ballots.  Even that may not help much at this point, though.  According to Coleman’s team, up to 1,000 absentee ballots should have been included instead of excluded, but gaining 225 votes out of 1,000 ballots will be a tall order — although not impossible, as Franken gained 200 out of the 935 absentee ballots they did count.  Ballot challenge inconsistencies will have less of a chance, as those are inherently subjective and the court will give the Canvassing Board the widest possible latitude.

In the end, a dead heat winds up getting decided by the incompetence of individual voters who under any other circumstances would not matter at all.  That’s what we had here.  Perhaps Minnesota would be better off with the runoff rule that Georgia has, in which any statewide election has to be decided by 50% plus one vote, or the two top vote-getters meet in a run-off election.  A run-off would have been less time-consuming and more objective than the recount we just had, and probably would have resulted in a clear-cut winner.

Update: I’ll be discussing this with Jack Riccardi of KTSA in San Antonio at 10:05 am CT.  Be sure to listen on the stream!