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December 18, 2008

Fuzzy math in Minnesota Senate race

While some observers believe that Al Franken’s campaign has done better-than-expected as the state Canvassing Board reviews his disputed ballots, Nate Silver at says not so fast:

The Star Tribune has logged 391 challenges made by the Franken campaign. Among these, 225 ballots were counted for Norm Coleman (57%), 56 for Al Franken (14%), and 110 (28%) either for a third-party candidate or for nobody. (The Star Tribune did also identified dozen or so challenges apparently made by the Coleman campaign that had somehow found their way into Franken's pile; these challenges are not included in the totals above).

There seems to be something of a consensus that these results represent good news for Al Franken, as a fairly high number of his challenges were successful. For a variety of reasons, I am less than certain about this, and think that we haven't yet learned very much about the ultimate outcome of the recount.

For one thing, the information provided by the Star Tribune is incomplete. We now know something about how the challenges ended up, but we don't know anything about how they began. That is, we don't know what the initial ruling on the ballot was at the county level, nor the reason for the challenge.