I just got back from a briefing at the National Democratic Senatorial Committee with Marc Elias, the lead recount attorney for Al Franken.
Elias asserts that the recount is actually much closer than what’s been reported recently due to a couple of factors. One, the numbers reported in newspapers tends to run about a day behind. Two, the Secretary of State’s numbers discount every ballot that’s been challenged whether or not the particular claims are meritorious or not.
Thus the Franken campaign has been keeping its own seperate count which they claim is closer to reality. They’ve been keeping track of the count using the on-the-spot rulings about questionable ballots from the various non-partisan election judges. According to them, this count has them only losing by 50.
What’s more, because the Secretary of State’s count discounts challenged ballots, Elias accused the Coleman campaign of having a deliberate “strategy” of issuing baseless challenges just so the media would report they were further ahead than they were.
Of course, if Coleman’s campaign were looking to run up the score, it strikes me that they could do better than the still precarious 340 vote tally that the media is currently reporting. So that could likely be spin to make it sound like Coleman’s challenges have less merit than they do.
The bigger issue is still absentee ballots. The Franken campaign cedes that the vast majority of disallowed absentee ballots have been disqualified for valid reasons. There are four reasons under Minnesota law that an absentee ballot can be discounted 1) name and address don’t match; 2) signature doesn’t match; 3) person is not registered or not registered where ballot was received; and 4) records show they have already voted, either through a previous absentee ballot or at a polling place on the day of the election. The Franken campaign claims there’s a “fifth pile” of as many as a thousand absentee ballots that were disqualified for other reasons than the four listed above and obviously they will fight to have those counted.
Elias also insists that Republican claims that he returned to Washington over the last week to set-up a war room and gather votes in the Senate to intervene in the election are untrue. He simply returned over thanksgiving weekend because ballots weren’t being counted over the holiday weekend and his family lives in Northern Virginia. He further said he wasn’t personally aware of anyone associated with the Franken campaign being in contact with Harry Reid or Democratic senators regarding the prospect of them intervening.
The bottom line is that as of now the odds remain in Coleman’s favor, but outcome of the recount is still far from decided.