Missing Ballots, Uncounted Absentees and the GOP PR Battle That May Trump Both...
By Brad Friedman on 11/25/2008, 10:13am PT  

UPDATE at end of article.

Math/statistics/poll-wiz Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com predicts the race between incumbent MN Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and challenger Al Franken (D) could result in a 27 vote win for Franken. That's right, just 27 votes.

With that in mind, every single vote matters, so it's of note that the Franken campaign is now wondering about some missing ballots in a number of counties. From Public Record's coverage last night:

According to the secretary of state's website, 1,074 people in Clay County voted on Election Day but only 1,069 ballots were produced by the county for the recount. In St. Louis County, 1,649 people voted on Election Day but the county turned over 1,646 ballots for the recount. And in Washington County, 1,464 voted on Election Day but 1,449 ballots were turned over for the recount. The shortfall can easily shift the election to Franken or Coleman's favor because the race between the candidates is so close.

That in mind, we'll take the opportunity to remind both parties in the recount of our earlier suggestion that they make public records requests (if they haven't already) for the invoices from printers of all of the original ballots, and then request that all ballots --- including unvoted ballots --- be counted as part of the final reconciliation of ballots. The number of voted, spoiled, and unvoted ballots should be exactly equal to the number of ballots shown as printed originally on those invoices. If not, there's a problem.

But while ballots have now turned up "missing," and absentees have been tossed from the hand count, the GOP seems to be preparing for a FL 2000 PR gambit to "win" at all costs...

We've got a few more notes/thoughts on a couple of related ballot issues that have bubbled up over the last few days as we've been driving across the country. Given the closeness of this race, these issues could ultimately end up deciding it one way or another, even as the GOP seems to be preparing a FL 2000 PR gambit to "win" at all costs, no matter the final outcome of the hand-count...

Rejected Absentee Ballots...

Franken's team has been fighting for the information of voters whose absentee ballots were rejected for one reason or another, charging that they should be included in the current "recount." Or, at least in the alternative, they should be allowed the information on those voters so they can double-check to make sure the ballots --- some rejected because the signatures were believed not to match the voters' registration forms --- were legitimately rejected.

As San Diego election attorney Ken Karan noted via email, in regard to absentee ballots that were tossed out due to perceived signature mismatches in an ongoing challenged election in California, the onus ought to be on election officials to prove that these are, in fact, illegally cast ballots. If so, then there need to be voter fraud investigations and/or prosecutions for all of them. They are either legal ballots, or unlawful forgeries, and should result in prosecutions.

"It should not be as simple to discard a ballot because the signatures don't match after a subjective comparison of signatures by people without any recognized expertise in the recognition of handwriting," Karan wrote. "Furthermore, if the signatures don't match, then that should mean that someone is trying to vote someone else's ballot. Now, that is voter fraud. Every questionable ballot should either be verified with the voter whose registration signature is at issue, or it should be the subject of a criminal prosecution."

The practice of tossing out ballots based on signature mismatches, without recourse for the voter --- for example, notifying them, and allowing them to confirm that it was their ballot, and they are who they said they were --- needs to stop. We've got a bum right wrist these days (blogging injury) and believe our signature, right now, would not likely match our signature from 10 years ago, or so, when we originally registered to vote in California. We'd be pretty ticked off if our vote was not allowed to count on that basis!

Yet, ballots are routinely discarded in this manner, and likely, thousands of legal voters disenfranchised in the bargain.

The GOP's FL 2000 Strategy Redux...

We've been noting the rapidly increasing number of challenged ballots by both campaigns. Nate Silver, who noted that Coleman's challenges suddenly increased exponentially as of Day 4 of hand-counting, believes that there are likely more legitimate challenges in the Franken stack than in the Coleman stack, and those ballots --- counted by the state Canvassing Board after the initial hand count is concluded --- will likely determine the race.

On the heels of our coverage of that issue yesterday, which noted that Coleman now seems to be making ridiculous challenges at this point --- e.g., ballots showing votes for McCain and for Franken, or for nobody at all in the Senate race, must have been voter error --- several have suggested that Coleman's challenges may be part of a scheme to keep his "lead" from the original machine tabulated count in place. The strategy would allow Coleman the (cynical) PR advantage of being able to claim: "We won the original count! And we won the recount!"

Sound familiar, yet?

That misleading claim will be made loudly across the entire Republican echo-chamber (which, shamefully, includes your public airwaves on talk radio, 24/7) and will be followed quickly with: "Don't let leftist, MoveOn.org-supported, Democrat Sec. of State Mark Ritchie thwart the will of the people and steal the election for Al Franken with his hand-picked State Canvassing Board!"

While an absurd case to make, hey, it worked for George W. Bush in 2000 when the GOP claimed "He won the first count, he won the recount, he won the second recount, etc." Never mind that none of those counts were ever completed, or even carried out as per state law, the Bush team was more than happy to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court making that case, and that their client would be "irreparably harmed" if all ballots were allowed to be counted, since the media had already announced him as the "winner."

On that score, we'll take the opportunity to mention that had all of the ballots been allowed to have been counted in the state of Florida in 2000, Al Gore would have been the winner [PDF].

Receiving the most votes is beside the point for the GOP, however. They have proven themselves willing to do anything to win. If you have any question about that, go see their shameful, official "Minnesota Recount" website where they have been claiming for weeks that Franken and the Democrats are "stealing the election." The official website of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has been unabashedly making that case, for weeks, without any actual evidence to support their ridiculous claim. But who cares. Anything to "win" for those guys, apparently.

UPDATE FROM STEVE HELLER, 5:45pm PT:

Two more tidbits for you:

Franken Claims List Of 6,400 Rejected Ballots

"And now they have photographic evidence of one of those missing ballots, stuck under a voting machine in Hennepin County. The picture was snapped by one of Franken's recount observers." Check it out here.

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