Canvassing Board Rules for Franken

Al Franken has claimed that he has a 4-vote lead over Norm Coleman once ‘all the votes are counted.’ The ruling from the state’s Canvassing Board today means we may get to find out if he’s right:

In a boon to comedian Al Franken’s Senate campaign, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board has ruled in the Democrat’s favor on two matters related to the recount in the race for Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) seat.

In a meeting Friday morning, the canvassing board ruled unanimously — five to zero — to recommend local counties sort and count improperly rejected absentee ballots and revise their canvassing totals accordingly.

“We are pleased that the state canvassing board has affirmed what we always believed to be true: Minnesota is not a state that disenfranchises its voters,” said Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr.

The Minnesota Secretary of State estimated there are more than 1,500 improperly rejected absentee ballots across the state, some of which have already been added to the canvassing totals. According to the Franken campaign’s internal data, absentee ballots have broken slightly for Franken and should boost his vote total.

The state canvassing board also ruled unanimously in favor of counting the 133 missing ballots from a Minneapolis precinct that were lost between election night and the hand recount that finished last week. The totals from election night, which give the Franken campaign 46 more votes, will be counted.

According to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune estimate, Coleman is 192 votes ahead of Franken, including the missing ballots. Franken’s campaign maintains Franken holds a four vote lead over Coleman, according to its internal count.

The state canvassing board will meet again on Dec. 16 to determine how to count the thousands of challenged ballots from the recount. Franken and Coleman’s campaigns challenged thousands of ballots during the hand recount, many of which are expected to be withdrawn before next week.

There are a couple of things worth noting here. First, the Canvassing Board can recommend that counties sort and tally the rejected ballots; it cannot require the counties to do so. Second, the Canvassing Board still must consider thousands of challenge ballots. Franken has claimed an edge here, but we need to see the actual count.

There’s also a silver lining here: the Canvassing Board has taken away Franken’s strongest argument that the count was unfair. He may still go to court, or to the Senate, in an attempt to overturn an adverse result, but it will be much harder for him to make a case that the process was unfair.