The Blog

Why Is Norm Coleman's Lead Slipping?

10:35 PM, Nov 6, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Markos Moulitsas notes that Norm Coleman's lead over Al Franken has been diminishing:

A reader has been tracking vote results updates from the Minnesota's SoS office:

9:15 AM
Coleman: 1,211,520
Franken: 1,211,077

10:15 AM
Coleman: 1,211,525
Franken: 1,211,088

1:20 PM
Coleman: 1,211,527
Franken: 1,211,190

That means the gap has gone down from 443, to 437, to 337 as provisional and other straggler ballots are counted. It was 477 votes last night.

Coleman's lead is now down to 236 votes, but the gap is not tightening because "provisional and other straggler ballots" remain uncounted. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, the state does not have provisional ballots and all absentee ballots had to arrive on or before Election Day to be counted.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told me in a phone interview this afternoon that the vote totals are fluctuating because county election officials are correcting errors in the unofficial vote totals. "The most common issue is the transposition of numbers," Ritchie said. "Depending on the county and the circumstance, there are occasionally people late at night on election night and 84 becomes a 48, and they might skip a digit."

Ritchie told me that in one county, "there was a 1 left off of a number so there was a hundred vote error"--the correction of which cut into Norm Coleman's unofficial lead. When I asked which county had seen this 100 vote shift toward Franken, Ritchie told me it would be too difficult to look at the screenshots of the website--static pictures of the site captured throughout the day--and determine which county it was.According to Ritchie, "when the recount begins there will be representatives [of the Franken and Coleman campaigns] there" to monitor the process, but "before the recount begins it is the job of the local county and city election officials to accurately determine the results." Ritchie, a member of Minnesota's Democratic-Farm-Labor party, said that most of those officials are elected and all are officially "nonpartisan."

The Coleman campaign did not return calls this evening inquiring if they were concerned that these vote totals--which have been shifting in Franken's favor--are currently being reevaluated without the oversight of campaign officials. Ritchie said he was confident that votes were shifting because of honest errors. "There isn't much tolerance here for partisan manipulation of elections on any basis whatsoever," he said.

There will be certification hearings on Monday, at which point there will be hard numbers going into the manual statewide recount. The law governing how a voter's intent will be determined during the recount may be found here. A recent statewide recount for a judicial race in Minnesota resulted in only a 7 vote difference from the initial results. In that race, about 100,000 ballots were cast, while nearly 3 million Minnesotans voted in Tuesday's election.