The Minnesota Senate recount is getting incredibly tight. According to officials from the Al Franken campaign, the margin separating the Democratic challenger and Sen. Norm Coleman is now down to 73 votes out of approximately 2.9 million cast.
Several weeks into the recount, 88.6% of the ballots have been counted, a slight majority of which came from Coleman supporters. As noted by Franken campaign lawyer Marc Elias, in the counties whose ballots have been counted, Al Franken won 49.6% of the vote on Election Day. In the counties who have not finished counting, Al Franken won 52.8% of the vote on Election Day.
The number is not based on the Secretary of State website or other sources (where the difference is listed at more than 250) but rather the findings of neutral election observers who are on the ground in state counties. In these counts, it should be noted, Coleman has challenged more ballots -- accounting for the larger deficit that Franken faces in the official count.
Even with the narrowing margin, there may not be enough room for Franken to take a lead. That's because, as the Franken camp has argued, the state has declined to publicize rejected absentee ballots. Elias, while claiming that the majority of these 12,000 ballots were rightly thrown out, estimated that "as many as 1,000," could end up being legitimate votes that were wrongfully uncounted.
On a conference call with reporters, Elias said the campaign would now "pursue all other avenues open to us," in regards to making these absentee ballots public, "including legal action." He even noted (as has been recently reported) that the United States Senate could take up the issue, a development that the Coleman campaign has called "troubling."
"If ultimately there is no remedy before the canvassing boards and before the courts, that ultimately remains an option," said Elias.
Also on the call, the Franken camp, as it has done for the past two weeks, raised concerns over missing ballots, a problematic development which has been reported in several counties. Elias called on counties to redouble their efforts to ensure that every vote that was cast would end up counted.
"[The final number] simply cannot be relevant if it does not include the total number of the votes cast," he said.
Without making progress in the missing ballot and absentee ballot field, the Franken campaign stands a much longer shot of passing Coleman. But the numbers -- if their math is to be believed -- should tighten even further. The campaign provided two other data points that show a blue-tilt to the remaining recount.
In Hennepin County. there are over 74,000 ballots yet to be counted. Among the ballots yet to be counted, Al Franken got 79.2% of the two-way vote on Election Day.
In Ramsey County, there are over 43,000 ballots yet to be counted. Among the ballots yet to be counted, Al Franken got 51.7% of the two-way vote on Election Day.