Minnesota Senate Recount Looms
And you thought Florida 2000 was close.
One of the most closely-watched Senate races in memory is set to begin its next chapter -- an exhaustive, hand-by-hand recount of nearly 2.9 million ballots cast in Minnesota on Election Day.
Sen. Norm Coleman, the one-term incumbent Republican, has a 206-vote lead over his Democratic challenger Al Franken, a former comedian, well within the half-of-one-percent margin to trigger an automatic recount.
The race has already been deemed the most expensive congressional contest in the country, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. (Coleman raised $19 million and Franken about $17 million, Federal Election Commission reports show.)
Coleman has claimed victory and urged Franken to cancel the recount; Franken refused, citing alleged voting irregularities at some polling places in Minneapolis. He noted "a recount could change the outcome significantly," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The hand-by-hand recount is expected to stretch into at least mid-December, Minnesota's secretary of state announced. Daily updates on the recount goings-on can be found on a soon-to-be-constructed government Web site. A politically-diverse panel has been appointed to a state canvassing board to see that the recount goes smoothly.
But both campaigns are taking no chances, with Franken's camp suing for access to data on voters who had their absentee ballots rejected, The Associated Press reports, and both teams ushering in lawyers and donors to help sway the vote their way.
Potentially, the most contentious part of the entire process will be the certification of "challenged" ballots, in which the canvassing board will have to determine a voter's intent. (Minnesota's 18-page 2008 Recount Guide (pdf) notes that out-of-place marks made on ballots should be counted if ther are "close enough to a name or line to determine voter intent.")
If a 2006 recount practice run in Minnesota is any indication, a hand recount could alter the numbers substantially. In that race, auditors reviewed votes in about 5 percent of the state's 4,123 precincts. Among 94,073 votes cast in the U.S. Senate race in those precincts, the audit found 53 discrepancies, an error rate of .00056 percent.
Applying those same totals to the 2,885,502 votes cast in this year's race and you get a potential error total of roughly 1,626 votes.
(Here's an update on the other undecided Senate race,. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich now holds an 814-vote lead over longtime Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens, with 35,000 more ballots to count over the next week, the Anchorage Daily News reports.)
By Derek Kravitz |
November 13, 2008; 4:08 PM ET
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