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Is Al Franken Winning by 22 Votes?

7:29 PM, Dec 3, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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With 93 percent of votes recounted, the Minneapolis Star Tribune showed Norm Coleman ahead by 303 votes, but at a press conference today, the Franken campaign claimed that their candidate leads Coleman by 22 votes.

Why the different numbers?

The Franken campaign claims their figure is based on the assumption that election judges' original rulings on challenged ballots will be upheld at the end of the recount. At Minnesota's recount sites, election judges rule whether each ballot is a vote for Coleman, Franken, or neither candidate. If a Coleman or Franken representative challenges a ruling, that ballot will be reviewed by the state canvassing board. The board, comprised of four judges and the Minnesota secretary of state, will issue final calls on challenged ballots beginning December 16. So far, the Franken camp has challenged 2,922 ballots; the Coleman camp has challenged 3,095.

With these 6,000 challenged ballots deducted from the total vote count, Coleman is ahead by 303 votes. But the Franken camp believes that their candidate, had a 325-vote margin over Coleman among these 6,000 ballots.

Very few of the election judges' rulings will be overturned, so trusting these original rulings is a good metric to determine which candidate is ahead. But there are a couple reasons why Franken-fearing Americans shouldn't despair.

First, after today's Franken press conference, Coleman netted 36 votes in one Minneapolis precinct where 133 fewer ballots turned up than were reported on election day. (Yesterday, Franken picked up 37 votes in one precinct where 171 previously uncounted ballots were found.)

Second, it's not clear that the Franken campaign is accurately reporting how the election judges ruled on the 6,000 challenged ballots. Human error could be skewing the numbers. Or, as the Coleman camp claims, the Franken camp may have "invented" their lead to win the public relations battle and grease the skids for court challenges. (The Franken camp has already knowingly told a false story about an elderly stroke victim whose absentee ballot was rejected because her signature didn't match the one on file.) The Coleman campaign says their candidate is "well ahead" of Franken, but won't place their lead at a specific number of votes.