Minnesota Recount Follies

Lizard People ballot

Lizard People ballot

Both Al Franken and Norm Coleman got good news yesterday, as the courts continued to make up rules well after the election.

The Hill:

A state Supreme Court ruling, which may exclude hundreds of ballots that Al Franken (D) had sought to include in the recount, could help Sen. Norm Coleman (R) in Minnesota’s contested Senate race.

The court overturned elements of a decision by the state’s Board of Canvassers to recommend that Minnesota’s counties open and tally more than 1,000 absentee ballots that were not counted for any stated, legal reason. In its decision, the court forbade the board to include any of those ballots in its final tally, except in limited circumstances laid out in the decision.

The Tribune, though, sees a mixed bag:

Al Franken and Sen. Norm Coleman each got good news and bad news Thursday, as one of the wildest elections in Minnesota history took yet another pair of startling turns.

The Minnesota Supreme Court said improperly rejected absentee ballots must be counted by the state Canvassing Board, something Coleman tried to prevent. But they won’t be counted immediately, and Coleman and Franken must agree on which ones are tallied.

Meanwhile, as the state Canvassing Board continued working its way through challenged ballots, DFLer Franken all but erased Republican Coleman’s lead in the U.S. Senate recount and appeared poised to pull ahead today. But his gains could in turn prove short-lived when thousands of previously disputed ballots are added to the tally.

TPM’s Eric Kleefeld, very much hopeful that Franken will come out ahead in the process, has a good recap of the twists and turns thus far.

Nate Silver, who also hopes Franken will win, nonetheless sees the process as something of a joke. For example, a ballot which selected both Norm Coleman and Brett Favre (write-in) was counted as a vote for Coleman, whereas a similar ballot voting for Franken and Lizard People was rejected. By the rules of the game, both ballots should have been rejected. Instead, it’s up to the whims of election officials.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, US Politics, , , , , , ,
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. PD Shaw says:

    On the Brett Favre ballot, Favre is a write-in for President, so it doesn’t contradict or have anything to do with the vote for Coleman.

    My favorite outcome at this point might be if Al Franken loses by one vote because the Lizard King ballot is voided. Ludicrous, insane and perhaps a teaching moment.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Fair point, PD, on the Favre ballot.

  3. I’m with PD: The Favre vote was for President, not Senate–I was confused by Silver’s comparison of the two ballots yesterday when I first read the post.

  4. Franklin says:

    I’m a little confused on what the Minnesota Supreme Court did. The first blurb says they are excluding the ballots, the second says that they’re supposed to be counted. I thought the issue before them was a single issue: the absentee ballots that were rejected for no apparent reason.

  5. Franklin says:

    After reading the links, I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on. I understand that it was “optional” before for the various counties to sort the rejected ballots by reason. So by ordering it to be uniform, they’re doing what? Are all counties going to be forced to sort?

  6. Franklin says:

    Regarding the Brett Favre vs. Lizard People debate: The challenge on both was due to the write-in name being “an identifying mark”. On that count, they should indeed be equivalent.

    Nate Silver correctly points out the other differences between the ballots, which are certainly debateable. But those differences don’t appear to be the reason for the challenge.

  7. Steven Donegal says:

    This same thing happened in the 2004 Washington governor’s election. Each election count has a margin of error that can’t be eliminated without undue burden on the process. Like the 2004 WA race, the Minn Senate race is well within that margin of error. The fairest result would be to flip a coin, but instead we’ll have months of litigation. That’s a kind of coin flip but a lot more expensive.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Thanks Franklin, I don’t think I cought the specific issue with “identifying mark.” But still, someone wrote-in the name Brett Favre and darkened the adjoining circle. That strikes me as a write-in. The other voter wrote “Lizard People” all over the ballot.

  9. ap says:

    maybe its too cold for anyone to think clearly in minnesota?

  10. tom p says:

    maybe its too cold for anyone to think clearly in minnesota?

    HEY! My sister lives in Minneapolis! Then again, she voted for Bush not just once, but twice.