Saturday, December 6, 2008

Back to reality

It doesn't matter what smart people may think about the Franken-Coleman recount. Minnesota is going to decide this election the old-fashioned way. That means more counting and recounting and arguing, in court if necessary, about challenges, excluded absentee ballots, lost ballots, and anything else that might change the outcome by one vote.

In the end, there will only be a few hundred challenged ballots that are hard to call, and we should all be able to sort them out and decide for ourselves. At least, we'll be able to sort out the voter intent. Duplications, invalid ballots, and chain of control won't show up well on the web.

I've been viewing the challenged ballots at the Star Tribune. Yes, I have looked at all 2240 available so far. Sometimes democracy requires sacrifices of personal hygiene, and it's a natural for blogging.

My conclusion: It's a nip and tuck race. Franken is gaining even though most of the challenges from both sides are bullshit (Franken has withdrawn 663 (PDF) of his challenges), but it's an open question whether he'll gain fast enough.

Even so, this race will come down to those excluded absentee ballots. Whether Franken or Coleman will want to check them remains to be seen. I would hope that, should Franken hold the lead, he would continue to argue for their review instead of expediently reversing himself.

The current consensus of other amateur recounters differs significantly from my own assessment. Yes, I have a bias, though I've worked against it. I've also mostly ignored the distinguishing mark problem challenged on both sides. I'm sure that there are a couple of other ballots I should have excluded. For example, I counted the infamous "Lizard People" ballot, and I probably should not have. (My reasoning, by the way: This dude - apparently - wrote "Lizard People" into all the races on the front of the ballot. On every one except the Senate race, he also blacked in the write-in oval. On the Senate race alone, he left the write-in oval blank and blacked the Franken oval.)

Still, the odd thing about the consensus counts at the Star Tribune is that my Franken count is only one vote higher than the consensus. There is no way I could possibly have unfairly excluded thirty-five Coleman ballots.

So, I wonder whether there's some freeping going on in this on-line exercise in what should be transparent democracy.

Note: Minnesota Public Radio has 2702 ballots posted for review.

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