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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Minnesota’s State Canvassing Board meets this morning at 9:30am Central time to decide appropriate action on rejected absentee ballots.

The Uptake will begin live streaming the meeting at 9:30, and we’ll be following along.

In a recount season filled with PR maneuverings on both sides aimed at claiming the high ground in the ultimate outcome, this video released by the Franken campaign is one of the more effective messages. What can seem to the general public like background noise and bickering over numbers is helped by a human, emotional face.

Here, the video cleverly begins with simple textual framing: “every vote should be counted fairly” and “they did nothing wrong/someone else’s mistake.” The video features compelling and genuine voters; these may (or may not) be Franken partisans, but they seem relatable and sincere, and most importantly motivated by genuine dismay at the prospect of not having their votes counted. You win a public relations move like this when you get a viewer picturing his or her own vote arbitrarily discounted, and you do that by making the viewer realize that the folks sharing their stories didn’t commit bad voting behavior.

Those seeking to make sure the votes aren’t counted (in this case, Norm Coleman’s camp) are best served when the public perceives the rejected absentee ballots as the fault of the individual voters who made silly mistakes or in some way created their own misfortune by failing to follow easily followed procedures. Everyone remembers the way that West Palm Beach voters were mocked in Florida 2000. When the public perceives that the voters are to blame for their votes being recorded wrongly, a key messaging battle has been won for election outcome legitimacy. That is not the case here. Although Coleman would win a PR victory for somehow getting people to believe that not counting these votes is just “punishment” for bad voting behavior, his camp has been effective in pushing that message.

In part because the Franken video is so effective, Coleman’s spokesperson has unsurprisingly reacted to the video by labeling it “a new low” even though not one person in the video says the words “Coleman” or “Franken.” The loud dissents from the Coleman camp were to be expected in a situation where their opponents have managed to release effective messaging on this key point of dispute before the Canvassing Board today.

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