Franken Gains in First Day of Counting, Media Play Fast and Loose with Numbers, GOP Prepares for the Worst...
By Brad Friedman on 11/19/2008, 11:12pm PT  

We've predicted since Election Day that Al Franken's chances of winning the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota are excellent. News tonight, out of the state where a manual count of the paper ballots began today, may already be bearing out that prediction, though it's far too early to know for sure. Franken, so far, has gained about 30 votes on the incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman on the first day of counting, bring the gap between the two to just 172 votes.

The race was previously determined, by the faulty and easily manipulated ES&S and Diebold ballot-scanning machines initially used to tabulate the paper ballots, to have given an edge of little more than 200 votes in favor of Coleman, out of nearly 3 million ballots cast.

That hasn't stopped Coleman from desperately and prematurely declaring "victory" --- hey, it worked for Dubya in 2000, and he was able to successfully take that to the Supreme Court, after all! --- nor has it kept the GOP conspiracy theorists and potential sore-losers from declaring all manner of unsubstantiated claims of "fraud" and attempts to "steal the election."

But as the hand count moves slowly forward --- and as I may be "off the grid," or otherwise unable to keep up with every beat as quickly as usual over the next several weeks --- I'd ask that you folks keep a very close eye on a very important point likely to reveal itself (to those who pay attention) during this count...

Back during the election contest hand-counts following this year's New Hampshire Primary, officials in the state carried off some misleading sleight-of-hand that the mainstream corporate media were all too happy (and lazy) to report repeat to readers. The scam worked like this:

If two precincts, for example, were hand-counted and in one it was found that Hillary Clinton actually had 10 more votes than the Diebold machines originally reported, and in the other Barrack Obama was found to have had 11 more votes than originally reported, state officials (and the lazy media) would report that: "Today's recount found little change in the results, with Barrack Obama picking up just a single vote against Hillary Clinton."

In truth, 21 votes had been miscounted in that scenario, but to officials and the public, it would become a nearly perfect count, off by only a single vote. Had Obama gained 10 instead of 11 in that scenario, the media would have said "the hand count has revealed no errors from the original machine count."

Misleading and deceptive? Of course. Please watch for that happening in MN. The machine miscounts in NH revealed, even in the limited number of ballots hand-counted there, an enormous error-rate, well in excess of that allowable by federal law. But it was downplayed because some of the miscounts "evened each other out" and because states have a great self-interest in making their election systems look as good as possible to the public, no matter how bad they may be.

You can help counter that nonsense, if you pay close attention.

Today's numbers...

"The scoreboard reads 0-0 with 2.9 million to go," Franken attorney Marc Elias correctly noted before today's hand-count began.

"We do not know the winner...until the completion of the process," said MN's Sec. of State Mark Ritchie.

They were both correct, unlike Coleman, who had already declared victory. "The only person who has declared Norm Coleman the winner of anything is Norm Coleman," Franken spokesman Andy Barr noted, as reported in MinnPost.com's excellent coverage of today's proceedings.

The Minnesota Independent reported tonight's results, noting Franken's gains, after the first day of counting:

Al Franken closed his vote count gap with incumbent Norm Coleman to 172 on Wednesday, the first day of Minnesota’s statewide U.S. Senate election recount. Both candidates lost votes as officials recounted by hand slightly more than 15 percent of 2.9 million ballots cast — but Coleman lost 70 and Franken only 27.

As mentioned above, the numbers "lost" by both candidates is somewhat misleading, e.g., the Independent went on to report that "Hennepin County’s manual recount of barely more than 1 percent of ballots cast had Coleman losing seven votes and Franken gaining one."

In truth, a quick look tonight at the tiny number of ballots counted in Hennepin today show that Coleman actually lost seven votes, while Franken gained two but lost one from the original machine tally:

That's a very minor example of what I was mentioning above, on a very small number of ballots, but you get the idea. I can't comb through the numbers right now to search for more egregious examples, but I welcome you to do so. Each day's manual count numbers will be available after 8pm CT via this link.

The Fraud Fraudsters...

Finally, tonight, by way of preempting the cries of "voter fraud" that will come from the GOP when/if their man falls behind in the count (they are already making such cries, but expect them to become increasingly louder and even more obnoxious), the Star-Tribune offers an excellent editorial today that begins this way:

Accusations about improper election procedures have been hurled with abandon by combatants in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate battle, which enters its recount phase today. But it’s worth noting that neither the Al Franken nor Norm Coleman camps has accused election officials of allowing significant numbers of ineligible people to vote. The two campaigns’ close scrutiny of events on Nov. 4 apparently has found nothing notably defective in either the voter registration or sign-in that occurred at the polls.

That’s the way it has been in every election since Minnesota began allowing voters to register at the polls in 1973. Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said that, in his 24 years as a state and county elections administrator, the number of cases of orchestrated group efforts to subvert the law by registering improperly or voting multiple times has been “exactly zero.”

Imagine that, voters get to register at the polls on Election Day and there are "exactly zero" examples of improprieties. By all means, let's not do that in the rest of the country any time soon!

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