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Minnesota Canvassing Board Sides with Franken on Two Key Issues, Sending Coleman to Court

Al Franken may be the favorite to win Minnesota’s recount after all.

The state’s five-person Canvassing Board today issued two key rulings, both of which represent significant boosts to Franken. In the first ruling, issued at about 10 AM local time, the Canvassing Board determined that 133 ballots from Minneapolis’s 1st Precinct, 3rd Ward are in fact missing, and that therefore the results from the recount in that precinct will not be accepted. Instead, the state will revert to its original certified tally in that precinct. Had the state chosen to accept the results from the recount instead, Franken would have lost a net of 46 ballots, as the majority of the missing ballots apparently favored Franken in this highly blue area.

In the second ruling, the Canvassing Board unanimously determined to recommend to the counties that they sort through their absentee ballots to determine which might have been rejected erroneously, and then resubmit their totals to the state after counting such erroneously rejected ballots. A recommendation, it should be mentioned, stops short of a requirement, as the Canvassing Board apparently felt as though it does not have the jurisdiction to require counties to count the absentee ballots without a court order. But, the counties that want to include the absentee ballots in their tallies would be allowed to.

The Coleman campaign, however, is now asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to halt the counting of the absentee ballots until, per the Star Tribune’s reporting, “the justices can rule on the campaign’s request that they order counties to follow a standard procedure in identifying wrongfully rejected ballots.” For the time being, the Coleman campaign merely appears to be seeking a constituent standard for the counting of the absentee ballots, rather than to preclude them from being counted in their entirety,

Indeed, with the missing ballots having been restored to Franken’s total (although that ruling also may become the subject of a Coleman lawsuit), it now appears as though the absentee ballots could well tip the balance of the race in Franken’s favor. Whereas the state had originally estimated that between 500 and 1,000 absentee ballots had been rejected improperly, that estimate is now up to 1,600 wrongly rejected ballots. A pre-election poll showed Franken leading by 8 percent among absentee voters, which would translate to a net gain of 128 ballots if there are indeed 1,600 such ballots to be counted. This estimate, however, is fairly crude, and nobody knows exactly how the rejected absentee ballots might break, although from my previous conversations with officials close to the Franken campaign, Franken also believes that a plurality of such ballots will be counted in his favor.

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