Franken vs Coleman absentee votes

Another wildcard to consider in the MN Senate recount-- rejected absentee ballots:

A Star Tribune analysis of rejected absentee ballot lists collected from 25 of the state's 87 counties shows that 2,066 would-be absentee voters were excluded from initial vote tallies in just those counties. The total does not include Hennepin County, home to about one quarter of the state's population, or several other metro counties.
So maybe 10,000 more? The Canvassing Board has to determine whether to review those ballots as well. I don't see how they can refuse.

Today's tally resulted in Coleman gaining 60 votes, while just 4% was added, going from 64% to 68% counted. At the same time, Coleman challenged 55 more votes today than Franken did, so that gain of 60 by Coleman is not surprising.

The total number of challenged ballots now stands at 1,982, but with the additional rejected absentee ballots included the topic:

In a race this tight, the difference could come down to clerical errors on absentee ballots or even a challenge of Minnesota's law governing such ballots.... On Wednesday, both sides will face off at a state Canvassing Board hearing that could prove momentous, with discussion and perhaps a ruling on whether rejected absentee ballots are in or out.

Despite the mounting number of challenges being made to the regular ballots being recounted now -- more than 1,800 as of Saturday evening, almost evenly divided between the campaigns -- experts say that most of those disputes will be easily resolved by the five-member board. As a result, the challenges may in the end make only modest changes.

But if the Canvassing Board decides to review rejected absentee ballots, many still unexamined votes could get thrown into the mix, adding far more uncertainty.

If the Canvassing Board were to decide not to review the absentee ballots, it'd probably call into question the legitimacy of the recount process.

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Franken vs Coleman recount notes

Todd blogged on this below with his thoughts, but I want to add some as well. It seems clear that Coleman is intent on having this go to the 5-person board with his having a lead. Right now, with 64% of the recount done, Coleman leads by 120 votes. The trend would indicate that Coleman winds up with a lead of less than 100 votes.

Again, I do not read that much into the challenge numbers themselves, as we don't have an overall indication as to which way the challenges are made: some are made by Coleman or Franken to challenge a vote to count and some are made by Coleman or Franken to challenge a vote to not count.  ie, they are not all challenging of the others, some are challenges against the way the votes are counted in the recount. This becomes obvious while watching the video in Todd's post on which type of ballots the Coleman campaign is challenging-- some they don't want counted for Franken and some they want counted for Coleman.

But its very clear that some frivolous challenging is going on by Coleman in order for him to maintain his lead. In Ramsey County a few days ago, there's this:

One dustup came when Coleman observer Bob Murray questioned Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky on all the people jamming in the room as well as how ballot stacks were being counted. When Murray challenged a handful of ballots in which voters appeared to mark Franken clearly, Mansky said they were frivolous challenges, something state law prohibits.
Murray replied, "If you want to deal with them, you can take my determination to court."

Then from yesterday, in today's Star Tribune, Coleman is retracting his earlier statement that he would not challenge the results of the canvassing board.

Another 10 percent is expected to be counted by tonight, and the SoS Ritchie is saying the recount could be done prior to thanksgiving, making way for all of the challenges to go to the canvassing board. There are cases where the machine count does not match up with the hand count, in total ballots.

Now, I've been paying close attention to Ramsey County. After Thursdays count, commenting:

Looks like Ramsey county is Franken's friend. 31% in, and Franken gained 33 while Coleman lost 6, a net of 39 votes, and Franken having 6 challenges to Coleman's 2. If that trends out as is, Franken would gain about 88 more from this county, and have have about 12 additional challenges than Coleman. 100 more coming in from Ramsey would be very good news, but I wouldn't put much weight into there being a consistent trend yet.
However, Fridays results for Ramsey county showed there now being 47% counted, with Franken losing 10 and Coleman losing 45, for a net of 35 for Franken. That would appear to be a reversal of the trend, and the number of challenges show a new trend. Coleman went from having 2 challenges to having 62, and Franken went from having 8 challenges to having 53, all when only another 16 percent of the ballots were counted. Here's why:

Challenged ballots spiked in Ramsey County, where the county attorney's office squelched negotiations that had limited challenged ballots the first two days of the recount and observers from both campaigns questioned voters' intentions far more broadly than before.

Ramsey County Election Manager Joe Mansky, who had negotiated down challenged ballots Wednesday and Thursday with the campaigns, was told by Assistant County Attorney Darwin Lookingbill to "punt all the disputed ballots to the Canvassing Board. So that's what we will do," Mansky said.

Mansky said he thought both campaigns have instructed observers to issue challenges more widely.

So now, I expect that though Franken will likely whittle down the Coleman lead to less than 100 with the remaining 26% of the recount, we are going to see the 1,669 challenges to dramatically increase.

Mark Ritchie had predicted 1,500 challenged ballots, and Nate Silver had estimated roughly 1,800, both of which now seem too conservative. Chris Steller, 2500? Higher:

On Day Three of Minnesota's U.S. Senate recount, the Al Franken and Norm Coleman campaigns again increased the number of challenged ballots by more than 40 percent over the previous day. In fact, both campaigns increased their challenged-ballot total by 48 percent.

A division of less than 100 votes, with thousands of challenged votes remaining, is where we are headed, to the canvassing board.

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The most accurate pollsters

Wow, according to Markos, by my giving Research 2000 the "Zogby Award" for their 2008 polling, I've committed a "serious accusation" in that I "claim that Research 2000 cooked its numbers" in their polling. Yikes, no fun with that guy until he gets his needed vacation...

One of his commenters gives a good definition of why Research2000 gets the award:

On October 25, R2K had the race at 52-40, while the RCP average (which didn't include the R2K tracker) was at 50.4-42.4.  Then R2K suddenly tightened when the cumulative trend didn't.  R2K was down to 50-45 on October 30 -- a 7 point drop in Obama's lead in 5 days.  But the RCP average on Oct. 30 was 49.7-43.8 -- only a 2 point drop in Obama's lead.  

Then from Oct. 30 through the election, R2K basically didn't change, ending up at 51-46, still a 5 point lead, while the RCP average showed Obama's lead opening up again, to 52.1-44.5.

From Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, the RCP average went from Obama +8.0 to Obama +7.6.  Over the same period, R2K went from Obama +12 to Obama +5.  I can't point to how this was done, but I got the distinct impression that R2K was tired of being a pro-Obama outlier as the election approached and decided to tighten up its numbers.

I hate to say that, because I think it was so great that Markos paid for this tracking poll and made it so transparent for all of us.  But if you look at the R2K trendlines, you get the impression that the race was an Obama blowout for 6 weeks and then tightened at the end.  No other poll shows that and I don't think I believe it.

Sounds Zogby-like to me (without needing the hyperventilating accusations in response). Markos, why dig? Every criticism I made about the polls sample turned out accurate-- end of debate. In the public poll of polls tracking I did, I wound up not even weighting Research 2000's numbers, once they slid to the middle. They helped formulate my opinion of taking the average and giving an even allocation of the undecideds for predicting a 6.4 margin for Obama.

It is useful to turn to looking at whom among the national pollsters got it right. Mark Blumenthal has the list, but doesn't give the bragging rights, so I will rank them, according to getting closest to the 6.6 margin and the candidate amounts breaking ties:

1.   CNN/Opinion Research
1.   Ipsos/McClatchy
3.   Democracy Corps
4.   Fox News/Opinion Dynamics
5.   Pew Research
6.   ARG 
7.   Harris Interactive
8.   NBC/WSJ
9.   Rasmussen
10.  You/Gov Polimetrix
11.  Battleground (Lake)
12.  Research 2000
13.  Diego/Hotline  
14.  ABC/Washington Post
15.  Marist College
16.  CBS/NYTimes
17.  Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby
17.  Gallup
19   Battleground (Terrance)
Opinion Research and Ipsos/McClatchy each only missed the final number by .4, so they get the top award. Democracy Corps got the margin pretty close, but was off by more with each candidate. The dog, loser, is Battleground's Terrance. What a humiliation. This is the polling group that nailed it in '04, and was the top in '96 as well. The runner-up dog is Gallup. Their "expanded voter" model was a failure, and Zogby, lol.

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MN recount: Franken vs Coleman II

Franken vs Coleman : The Recount

Here it is, starting today, ending... (you get the point). The Star Tribune is updating the re-count.

Right now, I'm looking at there being 29% counted, and Coleman leads by 158 votes. Coleman has challenged 316 and Franken has challenged 211 votes. If you factor in the challenges as representing votes for the other that are questionable by the opposition, the difference could be as low as 53 votes at the moment. Some of the counties are not going to start until Dec 3rd, so this will be going on for a while.

Update [2008-11-20 19:55:24 by Todd Beeton]:I was working on a post on this as well, so I'll just throw the bulk into an update.

While I'd certainly like to see Franken's gains come more quickly, there is some reason for continued optimism. First of all, as Jerome notes, is the very fact that so many more of Franken's lost votes are due to challenges than Coleman's are. Let's say the canvassing board that rules on the challenges rejects the challenges in equal proportions, Franken would make up more votes than Coleman would and therefore could enter that phase of the recount behind Coleman but ultimately prevail.

As Franken recount lawyer Marc Elias said at a campaign briefing with reporters earlier today (h/t TPM):

"We've seen examples of challenges that are clearly non-meritorious, and will not be upheld by the canvass board." If Elias is right about that prediction, Franken could potentially gain even more votes when the board finally takes up those ballots in December.

I do agree with Nate, though, that there is some danger for Franken here as the mere appearance that a canvassing board led by a Democratic SOS "overturned the will of the people" would give Coleman ammunition to demand a second recount or even call into question the election's validity. It probably would behoove Franken to adopt a more aggressive challenge strategy.

Another reason for optimism is the fact that the votes that have been recounted so far have come more from Coleman country than from Franken country.

Again from the press conference:

Marc Elias...said that Franken has made gains despite the fact that the recounted areas so far are more Republican than the state as a whole -- which means they could potentially gain even more votes as the count moves into more pro-Franken precincts, though Elias stressed that they aren't making any direct extrapolations or projections.

As a sign of this, take the recount percentages from the Minnesota Secretary of State's website (which, by the way, hasn't been updated since last night.) It shows that Coleman has received 43.25% of the recounted votes while Franken has received just 39.99%. Compare this with the original certified count of 42% for each of them.

This is due largely to the fact that Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, MN's two most populous counties, which both went for Franken by double digit margins, still have 70% and 85% of their precincts respectively left to recount. On the other hand, Hennepin so far has not exactly been a recount goldmine for Franken, having netted him just 6 votes, although this could be due, again, to Coleman's overly aggressive challenge strategy. About a third of all of Coleman's challenges so far have come from Hennepin County.

A couple things make me think the Coleman camp are nervous about losing this thing. First is their overzealous challenge strategy and second is the overzealous spinning on the part of GOP strategist Todd Harris on Hardball today. He made (at least) two errors when trying to spin Coleman strength: 1. Franken is going to challenge more votes than Coleman because he's behind and 2. most of the votes that have been recounted have come from blue counties. Sorry, Todd, wrong on both counts. Nervous much?

Update [2008-11-20 20:2:2 by Todd Beeton]:Interesting, looks like Franken has indeed gotten a bit more aggressive with his challenges. While Coleman has challenged 317 votes, Franken has challenged 246, resulting in, so far, a net gain of 72 votes for Franken, reducing Coleman's lead to 143. But again, the number of those challenges that will ultimately be ruled valid won't be known until the canvass board meets in December.

Update [2008-11-20 21:33:3 by Jerome Armstrong]: With 46% of the recount finished, Coleman leads Franken by 136 votes, and Franken has challenged 414 and Coleman has challenged 409 ballots.

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Challenging Ballots is Fun

Minnesota Public Radio has photographs of some of the challenged ballots in the Minnesota recount.  It's a good look at some of the challenges and a tiny fraction of the BS facing ballot judges in Minnesota.  The strategy of both camps seems pretty obvious:  Use any pretense to challenge a ballot so that the ones that are even a little questionable seem like reasonable challenges.  It's a battle of attrition. s/2008/11/19_challenged_ballots/

And now:  Lizard People

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