Did Felons Put Al Franken in the Senate?

Did felons voting illegally put Al Franken over the top in Minnesota? Probably not.

A new study by a group trying to prove felons put Al Franken in the Senate finds that felons put Al Franken in the Senate, Fox News reports.

The six-month election recount that turned former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Al Franken into a U.S. senator may have been decided by convicted felons who voted illegally in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

That’s the finding of an 18-month study conducted by Minnesota Majority, a conservative watchdog group, which found that at least 341 convicted felons in largely Democratic Minneapolis-St. Paul voted illegally in the 2008 Senate race between Franken, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, then-incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman.

The final recount vote in the race, determined six months after Election Day, showed Franken beat Coleman by 312 votes — fewer votes than the number of felons whose illegal ballots were counted, according to Minnesota Majority’s newly released study, which matched publicly available conviction lists with voting records.


A spokesman for both county attorneys’ offices belittled the information, saying it was “just plain wrong” and full of errors, which prompted the group to go back and start an in-depth look at the records.

“What we did this time is irrefutable,” McGrath said. “We took the voting lists and matched them with conviction lists and then went back to the records and found the roster lists, where voters sign in before walking to the voting booth, and matched them by hand.

“The only way we can be wrong is if someone with the same first, middle and last names, same year of birth as the felon, and living in the same community, has voted. And that isn’t very likely.”

Presuming all the lists are accurate, the methodology is plausible enough.  But, while it “isn’t very likely” that most of these names overlap, it’s quite likely that at least some of them do.  It’s even more likely that there are errors in the felons list itself.

But we’re talking very tiny margins here.  The group found 341 felons voted illegally.   Even if that’s 100 percent accurate, the difference between that number and Franken’s 312 margin is only 29.  Are we sure that none of the felons voted for Norm Coleman or Dean Barkley?   That strikes me as extremely implausible in a race where 41.994% of the recorded votes went to Franken, 41.983% went to Coleman, and 15.150% went to Barkley.

Further, while I very much support running elections according to the rules, 341 votes in a contest in which 1.7 million people participated amounts to less than a rounding error.   It’s a dead certainty that more than 341 votes were cast in error or not counted through some vagary of the system.

The fact of the matter is that, in extremely close elections with large numbers of votes, we never know who “should” have won.   That’s why I opposed all the recounts and challenges in this race:  They begin with the false premise that we can get it precisely right and only serve to enhance bitterness on the part of the losing side.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Law and the Courts, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Franklin says:

    Well, this group got their headline on Fox News, so mission accomplished. I hope they didn’t waste any public money in doing so.

  2. Tano says:

    They only looked for felon-voting in the two most-Democratic counties in the state.Its like they couldn’t be bothered to make even a small effort to at least pretend to be searching for “the truth” of the matter as to who actually received the most legitimate votes statewide.

  3. mpw280 says:

    Mission accomplished, yeah right, legal voter disenfranchisement due to illegal voting practices sponsored by ACORN and the Democrat party. Now look up how many dead voted for Franken and the vote count shifts the other way, then look at the non-existent voters for Franken and it isn’t even close. This was a Chicago election done in Minnesota and the press doesn’t care, just like they don’t care in Illinois when it happens. Now you can expect it to happen anywhere there is a Democrat in trouble, they got the system perfected in Chicago, used Minnesota as a stalking horse to see how it would go and if they could get away with it and now it goes nation wide. mpw

  4. just me says:

    Personally I think once a person is out of prison they should be allowed to vote anyway, but apparently that isn’t the case in MN.

    I do think it is a bit much to assume all the felons voted for Obama (although since it was in the two most heavily democratic counties the likelihood that they voted for Obama is higher than not). Personally I think the best solution would have been a two man run off between Coleman and Franken and in the future for any other close elections where there are three or more candidates.

    No easy solutions, but I think better ones than the way we saw this election recounted.

  5. wr says:

    mpw — Could you remind just which sections of the United States all good Americans are supposed to hate and fear? As I recall from recent elections, Massachusetts is evil, as is New York and of course California. Now Chicago, too, is a hub of villainy.

    Then tell me who are the real Americans who so despise the vast majority of their fellow citizens.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Yet more evidence that all 50 states should change their election laws to compel run-off elections when there are more than two candidates and the number of votes accumulated by the candidates other than the top two exceeds the margin of victory.

    Another problem occurs when the margin of victory is less than the margin of error. I’m not entirely sure how that can be corrected. Mulligans? There is no really just solution in that case.

  7. Akruma Mgumbo says:

    You cannot trust elections which are closer than a hundred thousand or so. ACORN and other partisan groups make a practice of enlisting felons, the senile, the dead, and the non-citizen and non-resident.

    Election fraud made Congress what it is today. Given the comments above, we can expect a lot more such fraud in the future.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Franklin, you are blaming the messager. I guess it would be better if these illegal acts were never reported to the public. Franklin you would have made a very good NAZI. While the Democrats hold the majority in both houses of congress nothing will be done. Kind of like the absolute fact Obama is not a natural born citizen and is ineligible to hold he office he holds. There is a difference between natual citizen and natural born citizen. The fact his mother was a citizen, no matter place of birth confers upon him his natural citizenship. However to be a natural born citizen. Both his parents had to be citizens. Democrats will never look into this eligibility issue. Republicans after November will be able to set things right. Even if they just take the house.

  9. mpw280 says:

    I didn’t say anything about hate and fear, I said that MN has now seen Chicago politics at its best and that it was a test bed for the rest of the nation. If you allow the Dem party and groups like ACORN to stuff ballot boxes and rig elections then welcome to Venezuela and Hugo Chavez politics. The things to hate are the people who make it a practice to steal elections thereby disenfranchising the rest of the voting populace, the people who enable it by allowing fraudulent voter registrations and those who would pervert the justice department to not prosecute instances of both. If you condone the actions of ACORN and the Dem party in this kind of voter fraud then you are someone to hate because you would tear down the system to see your candidate win. So defend voter fraud if you will, but if you do soon your vote won’t matter.
    BTW Chicago has a long and storied history in voter fraud and stealing elections, learned most likely from the Tammany Hall crowd and brought west, but now perfected under the steady hand of the Chicago Dem machine and Little Big Man’s father Richard J Daley. mpw

  10. wr says:

    mpw — Interesting that you only find vote fraud in Chicago, completely ignoring the caging of minority voters in the South, or the wholesale disenfranchisement of African-Americans whose names somewhat resembled those on a list of felons in Florida. You scream about ACORN like the standard Beck-bot who has convinced himself it’s the same as SPECTRE, but no nothing about the massive attempts at voter fraud by the Republican party and Bush DOJ between 2000 and 2008. Because, of course, the definition of vote fraud is a Democratic victory.

  11. Brett says:

    What would have saved us an enormous amount of time and hassle would be if Minnesota had had run-off elections, like what happened with Saxby Chambliss in Georgia.

    In fact, I think ALL states should have run-off elections for federal congressional positions.

  12. reid says:

    Please don’t feed Fox rubbish to your trolls, James….

  13. floyd says:

    Oh! …I see your only counting convicted felons!

    When I read the headline I thought you meant certain county election officials.[LOL]

  14. Juneau: says:

    The liberals here on OTB always seem to have the same answers to any points or facts that are unfavorable to their cause; 1) Some juvenile form of “Oh, yeah? Well you guys do it too! ” , or 2) making observations that the behavior in question shouldn’t be considered wrong anyway.

    Have fun, boys. Figuratively speaking, the liberals are digging their own graves with the electorate, and it’s getting deeper and deeper on a daily basis. You know what the REALLY hard thing is going to be for you to face? The one that will keep you in denial for years? The fact that the majority of folks in the country – who are to the right of you politically- no longer care what you think.

    All of your weapons are *poof * gone. We’re all racist? *Yawn* We’re all heartless? *Yawn* We’re all greedy? *Yawn*

    The sweetest thing is that you all think that this “awakening” is going away sometime soon. Heh. You guys are all yesterday’s news, and you don’t even know it yet.

  15. wr says:

    Juneau: It’s not “You guys do it, too.” It’s pointing out that you are hysterical about one guy with a stick because that violates everything that’s great about America, but didn’t give a damn about the systematic violation of voting rights during eight years of Bush. Which means that for all your pretense, you are only interested in trashing Obama or attacking minorities, and you’ll use anything you can to achieve that goal. So why should anyone ever listen to you?

  16. steve says:

    The GAO report said ACORN did not commit voter fraud.


  17. Juneau: says:

    Which means that for all your pretense, you are only interested in trashing Obama or attacking minorities, and you’ll use anything you can to achieve that goal. So why should anyone ever listen to you?

    First of all, I couldn’t care less if anyone listens to me or not – the liberal sunset is coming and whether or not you believe that will have absolutely no impact on the outcome.

    Second, “one guy with a stick” isn’t the issue. The issue is institutionalized racism in the justice department that is a violation of everything YOU supposedly believe in. When an attorney from the justice department blows the whistle, naming names, and quoting officials as stating that there is only one color of skin that can commit federal civil rights crimes – that’s a problem.

    Finally, you absolutely can NOT demonstrate ANY “systematic violation of voting rights during eight years of Bush.” And you know that full well.

    Prove me wrong.

  18. wr says:

    Juneau: If you think the “institutionalized racism” in the DOJ is prejudice against whites, you are as sad and pathetic as Tangoman. I have no idea what failures you’ve suffered in life, but I can guarantee you that none of them came about because the “system” priveleges whites over minorities. That’s as pathetic a delusion as any in this country, along with the notion that Christians are “persecuted” because they’re not allowed to force everyone else to live by their rules. (Not, of course, that they do — but that’s for the little people, right?)

    As for the “liberal sunset” — I hate to break this to you, but whether or not the election goes well for the Republicans, it’s not going to be armageddon. We’re not going to be rounded up and sent to reeducation camps — oh, let’s call them Beck U, shall we? — and we’re not going to go away. We despise the Republican philosophy and will work to take our country back for the Americans who believe in the promise of this country, not in the fantasy of Galt Gulch.

  19. matt says:

    My favorite part about this “study” is how the group totally focused on the democrat and a few democratic leaning counties and not the whole election including all voters..

  20. anjin-san says:

    I do think it is a bit much to assume all the felons voted for Obama

    Look here. Obama is a negro. We all know those people are involved in crime and fraud.

  21. anjin-san says:

    Prove me wrong.

    So Juneau, have you been this lame all your life, or is it something new? Tell us again how Paul Newman was not a liberal. Oh wait, we already “proved you wrong”.

    It must kinda suck going thru life with so few working brain cells.