Franken and Coleman fight over 1,350 uncounted ballots


Here’s a quick recap of the latest developments in Minnesota’s Senate recount as of mid-day Monday.

The biggest remaining pool of disputed ballots — 1,346 that that local officials rejected on Election Day for no legal reason — remain disputed. The campaigns of Al Franken and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman differ sharply on how many should be counted; indeed, the two sides are off by an order of 10.

Yet under a state Supreme Court order they must somehow reconcile their views this week at 12 regional meetings where the ballots’ fate will be decided.

Meanwhile, the state’s only sure-bet senator, Amy Klobuchar — no stranger to electoral squeakers — said she prefers a seat-’em-first, sue-’em-later approach to the contested post. The recount now comes down to the 1,346 absentee ballots that the state’s 87 counties didn’t tally but now say they should have. By order of the state Supreme Court, the counties will submit uncounted, unopened absentee ballots by Friday (that’s a time extension) to the State Canvassing Board, which will incorporate them into the overall vote count before it certifies the election.

Not all 1,346 are likely to make it into the certified tally. First, the campaigns of Al Franken and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman will review the uncounted ballot envelopes this week at 12 regional meetings around the state and knock out any they find unworthy of counting.

Franken’s folks sent the Coleman camp a letter over the weekend that proposed the two sides skip that step and essentially approve the inclusion of all the counties’ uncounted absentee ballots by acclamation. The Coleman campaign said no, that’s not what the Supreme Court asked us to do.

After a weekend of reviewing the uncounted ballots, Franken wants to count all 1,346 and Coleman wants to count only 136 — about a tenth of the total. The Supreme Court’s order includes a threat of unnamed sanctions for unreasonable objections but it isn’t clear what effect that will have this week.

Franken’s determination to count all the wrongly rejected absentee ballots rests on two ideas, one philosophical, the other political. Counting all valid votes has been the Franken battle cry from the beginning, so even with a lead in hand the campaign has continued to call for including any such ballots in the state’s tally. And with Coleman now almost 50 votes down, any reasonably random pool of ballots (like those wrongly rejected absentee ballots) is statistically unlikely to provide him with enough extra votes to make up the margin. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Klobuchar told the Star Tribune the Senate should seat the man who has more votes after the State Canvassing Board certifies the election — and that man seems likely to be Franken. If Franken does assume his first elective office after a close election, he’d have that in common with Klobuchar. She narrowly won her first race 10 years ago, for Hennepin County Attorney, by a margin of 3,740 votes, avoiding an automatic recount by only three-tenths of a percent, or 1,525 votes.