Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Breaking News: Franken Team May Fumble

For several days now, the only way that the Al Franken campaign could lose the Minnesota Senate Race has been if they beat themselves. With a 46-vote lead after all challenged ballots had been reviewed by the state canvassing board, and a State Supreme Court decision rejecting the Coleman campaign's preposterous allegation that there were over 100 double-counted ballots, all that has remained is a pile of approximately 1,600 absentee ballots which may or may not have been improperly rejected. Since before the holidays these have been the only ballots left on the table: Once those ballots had been accounted for, there wouldn't be anything left to count. Unfortunately for Mr. Franken, the Supreme Court ruled that, for each of these 1,600 ballots, both campaigns and the relevant county administration must agree to count it, and that if any one of those three parties didn't agree, the voter in question would be notified and would have to appeal the rejection of his ballot, in writing. And why is that bad news for Franken?

Because the disaggregation of the review process means that the Franken people are uncoordinated in their approach to challenging or allowing ballots. In Republican-leaning areas, at least so far yesterday and today, the Franken campaign has approved essentially all of the absentee ballots, in keeping with Franken's very consistent message that every vote should be counted. In Democratic strongholds, by contrast, the Coleman people are under no such obligation to principles or ethics, and as such they have no particular incentive to allow any absentee ballots at all. In consequence, what may very well happen is that the Franken campaign, striving for a consistent, politically salable, and above all correct position in the matter, could end up giving away its roughly 50-vote lead. It could well end up that only absentee ballots cast in Republican areas of the state ever get counted at all, and that these could very well reverse Mr. Franken's lead.

The one ray of sunlight in this matter is that most of the 1,600 absentees are located in Democratic areas, anyway, and even in Republican-leaning parts of the state, the absentees seem to be slightly favoring Mr. Franken. The Uptake is covering the story live, including simulcasts of all press conferences, etc., and including the absentees that have already been agreed upon by all three necessary entities, at the moment Mr. Franken's lead is unofficially at fifty votes--up four from the start of this process. Still, there have been 18 ballots presented in Republican-leaning Sherburne County, and 15 of those have been agreed upon by all three entities. That's an awfully small sample to work with, but it does raise some grave concerns about the extent to which Mr. Franken's principled stand could cost him the whole race.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

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