Norm Coleman’s campaign received a boost Tuesday when the three-judge panel hearing his election contest ruled that 4,800 rejected absentee ballots will be considered for inclusion. Coleman’s lawyers had argued that all 11,000 rejected absentee ballots should be reconsidered, while Al Franken’s camp had lobbied for limiting the field to less than 700 such ballots.
But the mere fact that this many ballots are still in the mix doesn’t necessarily bode well for Coleman’s prospects of closing the 225 vote lead that Franken currently holds. Numbers guru Nate Silver offers an entertaining explanation at FiveThirtyEight for why the 4,800 ballots might not be that significant:
Don’t be impressed, in other words, by the sheer number of ballots under review. If you ask a girl out, and she turns you down the first three times, you don’t really improve your odds of success by asking her out another 30 times. (You may, however, increase your odds of getting a slap in the face or a restraining order).
The Coleman campaign, from what best I can tell, appears to be asking for a review of essentially every absentee ballot that they believe is more likely to contain a Coleman vote than a Franken vote. But these ballots have already been evaluated once, twice, and in some cases three times, and at each stage they have been determined to have been rejected properly. As we learned during the recount phase of the process, when the Coleman campaign challenged more ballots than Franken but had fewer successful challenges, it’s not the denominator that counts but the numerator, and I would guess that Franken has about has many successes from his list of 770 as Coleman does from his 4,800.