More confusion in Coleman-Franken recount

As the process continues, the number of ballots challenged by the campaigns is growing, meaning it'll be even longer before we know who won.

By Alex Koppelman
Published November 25, 2008 9:40PM (UTC)
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The recount in the Minnesota Senate race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken is continuing, but we're still a ways away from knowing the result.

As of Monday night, with more than 78 percent of the votes counted, Coleman led Franken by just 210 votes out of a total of almost three million. At the beginning of the recount, he led by 215, and that number has been changing slightly ever since. (Franken has apparently gained more than just the five votes these numbers would indicate; the Minneapolis Star Tribune's analysis shows the Democrat netting 46 votes, but the numbers are off due to the high number of ballots challenged by the two campaigns.)


Even with the recount itself so close to completion, an actual result might not be determined until the middle of next month. Both campaigns have challenged more than 1,500 ballots apiece, and the result of those challenges won't be known until after the recount is complete. That process involves determining the intent of the voter, which can be difficult -- the famous example in this race is of one person who voted for Franken but also wrote in the "Lizard People."

There are other complications as well, including the possibility of a search for missing ballots and the question of what to do with rejected absentee votes.

Still, the legendary Nate Silver has completed his analysis of the race, and he thinks Franken will come out the winner by a margin of "between 48 and 136 votes." He cautions, however, that the margin of error in his calculations is quite high -- "at least +/- 200 votes to achieve a 95 percent certainty level."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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