The Corner

So What’s the Deal with Franken?

Yesterday the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza updated the Minnesota Senate recount under heading “Counting Chaos!” Yet the text of his update mostly belied the heading (and the exclamation mark).

Two weeks after Election Day, incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman was certified the winner of his race against Al Franken by 206 votes out of nearly 3 million cast on November 4, subject to a mandatory recount triggered by the closeness of the margin.

As Cillizza explains, the process by which the votes have been recounted is simple: Independent election judges at locations throughout Minnesota’s 87 counties have conducted a ballot by ballot examination (on a precinct by precinct basis) and determined the candidate voted for on each ballot. The Coleman and Franken campaigns each have an observer in place at the recount locations and the observers can challenge the ruling of the independent judge.

The mandatory recount has proceeded by hand throughout Minnesota on a precinct-by-precinct basis in a mostly orderly fashion for the past three weeks, with results reported each day to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. The recount will come to an end tomorrow, with some 6,000 challenged ballots – roughly half challenged by each side — to be considered by the five-member canvassing board called under state law to preside over the recount.

The canvassing board includes Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, Justice Barry Anderson, Ramsey County Judges Kathleen Gearin and Edward Cleary, and Secretary of State Mark Ritichie. Ritichie is the “man from ACORN,” but the canvassing board is otherwise a serious body. When they take up the challenged ballots tomorrow, they have their work cut out for them.

According to news organizations comparing the reported recount results to the originally certified tally, as of last night Coleman’s margin over Franken had expanded to 316 votes (excluding the approximately 6,000 challenged ballots).

Cillizza predicates his claim of “chaos!” on the Franken campaign’s claim to be ahead by 22 votes when the challenged ballots are finally ruled on by the canvassing board. My own sense from talking to election observers and others is that the Franken campaign is trying to introduce a sense of uncertainty to the probable outcome that is probably unwarranted.

A claim of “chaos!” predicated on the mysterious appearance and disappearance of ballots at various locations would have more substance. Franken, for example, picked up 37 votes from newly discovered ballots in a suburb of St. Paul earlier this week. And yesterday’s recount in Minneapolis’s first precinct showed 133 fewer votes than the election-day count, potentially costing Franken 46 votes. Today’s Star Tribune reports that Franken attorney David Lillehaug asked that the recount in Minneapolis be kept open until the ballots are found. Citing 133 “disenfranchised voters in Minneapolis who are waiting for action,” he wrote the secretary of state, “the U.S. Senate race may hang in the balance.”

Cillizza to the contrary notwithstanding, Franken isn’t talking or acting like a winner. As I wrote on Power Line this week, I conclude that Franken anticipates losing the recount. Franken has already resorted to litigation over rejected absentee ballots and threatened further litigation over the rejection of certain absentee ballots. He has met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the subject and won Reid’s expression of concern implicitly raising the threat that the Senate Democratic majority may overturn the result reached in Minnesota if the rejected absentee ballots in issue aren’t counted. Al Franken hasn’t been funny in a very long time, but that is really unfunny.

Scott W. Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney and contributor to Power Line.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

Most Popular

Trump vs. Biden: A Rundown

One week out, the contrasts are worth assessing. Foreign policy Biden so far has issued no substantive critique of Trump’s foreign policy other than banalities that Trump’s comportment and unpredictability have offended allies and tarnished America’s reputation. But who exactly, according to Biden, is ... Read More

Trump vs. Biden: A Rundown

One week out, the contrasts are worth assessing. Foreign policy Biden so far has issued no substantive critique of Trump’s foreign policy other than banalities that Trump’s comportment and unpredictability have offended allies and tarnished America’s reputation. But who exactly, according to Biden, is ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Some Counterfactual Thinking

Election Day is one week away. Can you believe it? On the menu today: contemplating what would be different, and what would be the same, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired in 2013 instead of staying on the Court until her death earlier this year; a couple of flubbed words on the campaign trail; yes, people really ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Some Counterfactual Thinking

Election Day is one week away. Can you believe it? On the menu today: contemplating what would be different, and what would be the same, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired in 2013 instead of staying on the Court until her death earlier this year; a couple of flubbed words on the campaign trail; yes, people really ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Whose Seat?

Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. And I think there are two little things to say about it. The first is that we very likely have in Barrett the true successor to Antonin Scalia on the Court. Barrett clerked for Scalia and her articulation of his philosophy is probably the most faithful on the court. Justices ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Whose Seat?

Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. And I think there are two little things to say about it. The first is that we very likely have in Barrett the true successor to Antonin Scalia on the Court. Barrett clerked for Scalia and her articulation of his philosophy is probably the most faithful on the court. Justices ... Read More