Thursday, December 18, 2008

Recount Update: Minnesota Supreme Court Delivers Mixed Judgement

It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting.
-Tom Stoppard
quoted in Justice Paul H. Anderson's dissent

The Minnesota Supreme Court has responded to Norm Coleman's lawsuit trying to stop improperly rejected absentee ballots from being counted in the recount. The 3-2 decision declared that:

1. The counties are prohibited from sorting through or counting any rejected absentee ballots on their own, or under the recommendations of the state's Canvassing Board;

2. Instead, the two candidates, the Secretary of State, and the county auditors and canvassing boards should implement a process for identifying and counting wrongfully rejected absentee ballots. But -- and here's the kicker -- both of the candidates and the local elections officials must mutually agree that any given absentee ballot has been rejected in error. If such a consensus emerges about a particular ballot, it will be opened, counted, and the revised results will be forwarded to the state's Canvassing Board.

The New York Times reports that this is a boost to Al Franken (not to mention anyone else who believes legitimate votes ought to be counted):

In a boost for Al Franken, a former comedian and talk show host running as a Democrat for the Senate, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that counties could count additional absentee ballots, despite objections from the Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman.

The ruling, which requires the counties to submit amended vote counts to the state Canvassing Board by Dec. 31, means another delay for Minnesotans still waiting for a result in the tight election.

The two dissents object to the court rejecting the county canvassing boards' authority to correct "obvious" errors. Specifically Justices Page and Anderson dissented because they believe that the provisions of state law specifically allow county canvassing boards to correct obvious errors.

My questions:
1. Will the State Canvassing Board establish these guidelines tomorrow before they finish resolving Norm Coleman's challenged ballots?

2. What happens if the counts are not completed by Dec. 31st? Does the counting stop at that point?

3. Will the campaigns come to consensus in good faith? Or will they refuse to agree to open ballots in counties where they are vulnerable?

4. Who will win?

Nate Silver at 538 has amazing analysis at his blog (it brings in legal analysis, game theory, and more). If you have any time it's a must read.

Previous Recount Coverage:
Recount Update: Can Franken Pull It Off?
Canvassing Update 2

Canvassing Update
December 5th Update
December 4th Update
Dececember 3rd Update
December 1st Update
MPR Ballots
Star-Tribune Ballots

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