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[UPDATED] In Minnesota Recount, Both Candidates are Losers Thus Far

And I mean literally.

The Minnesota recount has started, with the results being updated in semi-real time on the Star Tribune’s webpage. Thus far, with about 5 percent of the ballots recounted, Coleman has lost 55 votes and Franken has lost 61.

The reason the vote totals are going down when you might intuitively expect them to go up is that either candidate has a right to challenge any ballot for any reason, even if it had been counted as legal originally. When a vote is challenged, it is deducted from the opposing candidate’s total. These challenged votes will go before the state canvassing board in December and be debated (and debated and debated) one by one (by one by one). Thus far, Coleman has issued 79 challenges and Franken 61, a rate that puts us on pace for about 2,800 challenges statewide.

It is difficult to say how many votes so far have actually been recharacterized so far as opposed to (or in addition to) those that have been challenged, because the Star-Tribune’s website only provides the net totals in each locality, but no detail about how we got there. Nor do we have any information yet on ballots gained or lost by third-party candidates. Keep an eye on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Webpage, which will have an update at 8 PM Central tonight and should hopefully provide for a more thorough accounting. I would be very reluctant to come to much of any conclusion about the recount until we have that additional layer of detail.


UPDATE #2 (6:15 PM) The totals listed on the Star Tribune’s website do not yet reflect a net gain of 28 votes for Franken in portions of St. Louis County (Duluth), a Democratic stronghold that uses older, more error-prone scanning machines.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.