Still Counting and Recounting, December 15th

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Dec 15, 2008 at 13:43

The 2008 elections are still not quite over. Here is the latest news on where things stand in the federal elections (Senate, President and House):

The current partisan balance of the Senate for the 111th Congress is 55 Democrats, 41 Republicans, 2 Independents (both of whom caucus with Democrats) and 2 undecided (Illinois, where there might be a special election and there might not be one, and Minnesota, currently undergoing a recount). Remarkably, in the Minnesota campaign, Democrat Al Franken is now likely to win. The Minnesota Secretary of State currently puts Coleman's margin at 188 votes, while the Star-Tribune puts it at 192 votes. Starting tomorrow, the state canvassing board will look at the 1,640 remaining challenged ballots. An AP analysis shows that when those challenges are resolved, Franken is likely to gain between 200-350 votes on Coleman, thus handing him victory (more in the extended entry):

Chris Bowers :: Still Counting and Recounting, December 15th
While the ultimate calls rest with the five-member Canvassing Board, the AP found that most of the ballots have clear intent and no deficiencies for which they would be disqualified under Minnesota law.

The AP's examination of the remaining challenges found:

--Fewer than half of the challenges left-about 1,640-are in genuine doubt. Still, that's eight times more than the current margin between the two men.

---In ballots that could easily be assigned, Franken netted 200 more votes than Coleman. But that number was essentially meaningless because Coleman has withdrawn significantly fewer challenges than Franken-that is, the pool of challenges that can be awarded to Franken at this stage is notably larger.

--Nearly 300 challenges wouldn't benefit either man because the voter clearly favored a third-party candidate or skipped the race.

--Of the challenges that can't be reliably awarded to either candidate now, more than 400 possible Franken votes are being held up because on grounds that those voters identified their ballots through write-ins, initials, signatures, phone numbers or some other distinctive marking. At least 300 possible Coleman votes are in limbo for the same reasons.

--The next biggest class of ballot that can't easily be awarded falls in the category of unclear voter intent. Nearly 600 involve cases where a voter filled in two ovals but crossed out one, put an X above or below their darkened oval or put differently sized partial marks in more than one. There are slightly more potential Franken ballots in that pile as well.

So, Franken will almost certainly take the lead after this phase of the recount. After this phase, all that is left are 1,600 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted, and which project to another Franken gain of 128 votes. While Norm Coleman is challenging these ballots in court, two Republican members of the Supreme Court were part of the unanimous canvassing board ruling to include these ballots. So, good luck with that lawsuit, Norm.

Add it all up, and Franken seems like the next Senator from Minnesota. There does not appear to be anything Coleman can do to stop that now. Franken is going to win this thing.

Wikipedia shows Obama's lead at 52.93%-45.67%, with 131,200,378 votes counted. With all states having either "final" or "certified" vote totals, the United States Election Project shows a total turnout of 131,237,136. So, while we are still dealing with a discrepancy of up to 36,758 votes, the two sources, which I take the definitive counts, have nearly merged. The final likely vote percentages will likely be 52.93%-45.67%, although changes of .01% could still take place. These totals do not include "spoiled" ballots.

Also, the Electoral College vote is today. While it is likely that the final total will be 365-173, usually at least one elector either makes a mistake or casts a protest vote. This occurred in both 2000 and 2004, for example. It is embarrassing that we still use this system.

All House elections from November 4th (or December 6th, in Louisiana) are now decided. Democrats led 257-178 after these elections, and also scored the largest popular vote victory (8.88%, according to an older count) in any congressional election since 1982. However, Obama's administration appointments have already led to at least a vacancy in Rahm Emanuel's seat (IL-05, PVI D+18). Xavier Bacerra (CA-31, PVI D+30) would be another vacany should be become trade representative. More vacancies may yet appear, most prominently as a result of the pending Secretary of the Interior pick. Also, each party seems to have a vacant seat, as House roll call votes 684-689 all show a partisan balance of 235-198. The results of the 2006 election and 2007-2008 special elections put the balance at 236-199.

So, the partisan breakdown of the House will probably be 257-178, although there are still some special elections to be had, and the House will open with some vacancies. Later in the year, the D.C. Voting Rights Act will almost certainly pass into law, thereby temporarily moving the partisan breakdown to 258-179 as both D.C. and Utah gain another member of the House.


This will probably be my final "still counting and recounting" thread for 2008. From this point forward, it will either be posts on House special elections, the final Presidential totals, the Minnesota recount, or the Illinois Senate special elections. I hope you enjoyed reading these overtime run-up threads as much as I enjoyed writing them. It is always fun to step back and see the big federal election picture all at once.

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Still have my fingers crossed (4.00 / 6)
It would unbelievably awesome if Franken won. I'll wait until he is actually declared a victor before celebrating. I had almost written him off a few weeks ago when he wasn't making up ground in the recount, and he had never taken the lead. Hopefully he does come out on top.

I spent most of Election Day phonebanking Minnesota voters, specifically because I didn't think enough attention was being paid to the close Franken race. Damn, I had no idea it would be this close! I would have called twice as many people as I did.

Glad you helped - I was calling for Obama (4.00 / 1)
But ... it is great that you called as many people as you did in Minnesota! ;)

McCain on the minimum wage

[ Parent ]
What special election? (0.00 / 0)
Where do you get that there will be a special election in IL? I haven't seen anything but a few misguided proposals, but the developing consensus is that it would be a bad idea. If all goes as it should, new Gov. Pat Quinn will be appointing the jr senator from Illinois before too much more time goes by.

This special election (0.00 / 0)
I wasn't aware anything had changed from this proposal:

llinois Legislature Pushing Blago Aside, Will Pass Bill For Special Election
By Eric Kleefeld - December 9, 2008, 4:53PM

It's official: The Illinois legislature is now on track to pass emergency legislation to fill Barack Obama's former Senate seat by special election, rather than allow Gov. Rod Blagojevich to make an appointment under these circumstances.

Pat Quinn supports it, too. If something had changed, please fill me in.

[ Parent ]
Here you go... (0.00 / 0)

"Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said Sunday that he should appoint a temporary Senator to fill Barack Obama's vacant seat before voters decide a longer-term replacement in a special election."

I assume the "special election" he refers to is the one in 2010.

[ Parent ]
It could also mean (0.00 / 0)
A temporary replacement before an special election in the spring of 2009.

Or, you could be right.

[ Parent ]
Jumping the gun? (4.00 / 1)
I think TPM may have gotten ahead of itself. Here's the Tribune/WGN's latest take: (Madigan is the speaker of the IL House.)

Madigan said Democrats who control the House would meet today to discuss whether to proceed with other action, including calls for a special Senate election, while they are focused on impeachment proceedings. In the meantime, House leaders are expected to select 12 Democrats and nine Republicans to form a special investigative committee to consider a full impeachment before the entire House.

Madigan said the committee would begin meeting Tuesday morning.

Madigan initially called lawmakers to Springfield today to consider legislation that would set up a special election to fill the vacancy created by President-elect Barack Obama's ascension to the White House. But Illinois Democrats are under some pressure nationally to keep the appointment power to  hold the seat, rather than risk a loss to Republicans because of a Blagojevich backlash.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link (0.00 / 0)
I will update the post.

[ Parent ]
Not sure anyone knows what's going on with IL... (0.00 / 0)
All weekend there were rumors that Blago was going to resign, which turned out not to be true.  It does seem that somehow or another they're trying to work on giving the governorship to Quinn, though it's unclear how long it will take to oust Blago.  

In any case, Republicans are now advertising to try and get a Special Election, but it's not clear that it will happen any more.  I have a feeling that Quinn will end up making the appointment.  I don't know if that's a good or bad thing.

A good thing. (0.00 / 0)
Even former GOP Gov Jim Thompson is against a special election because it will distract from the serious need for the legislature to agree on a solution to the economic crisis the state is facing.

Quinn is accepted by everyone as the straightest of straight arrows. (Which is why he didn't get elected governor.) His choice will have credibility in Illinois.

[ Parent ]
I think it's a good thing (0.00 / 0)
for the simple reason that it guarantees a Democrat. With a special election, held in the immediate aftermath of this scandal, who knows.

[ Parent ]
even without the rejected absentees? (0.00 / 0)
Are you saying Franken is likely to be ahead after the challenged ballots are considered, but before any counting of rejected absentee ballots?

I know we all have good reason to believe Franken would gain more with counting of the rejected absentees, but it seems that his lead over Coleman following challenged ballot resolution would still be smaller than the number of outstanding challenged ballots.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

I was wondering the same thing (0.00 / 0)
If Franken might edge out Coleman even without the absentee ballots, then things are looking VERY good for him, because IMO the absentees are going to end up being counted (if it still matters).

[ Parent ]
the Utah Compromise (0.00 / 0)
For some reason I've always found it impossible to get an answer to this question: if the DC cong. vote bill passes, does Utah get an extra district just until the next redistricting, or an extra congressperson in perpetuity, maybe on an at-large basis? Because if it's the former, it would seem like an extremely good deal, since Utah is bound to get an extra CD after 2010 redistricting anyway; but if it's the latter, it would be just sort of weird and unfair to everyone who doesn't live in Utah, and maybe unconstitutional, too.

2012 (0.00 / 0)
Utah gets the extra Congressperson until just 2012. Then the House goes back to 435, with DC getting one of those.

[ Parent ]
Actually (0.00 / 0)
I was right about Utah getting the extra Rep until 2012, but the bill would permnanently expand the House to 437.

[ Parent ]
good deal, then (0.00 / 0)
Statehood would be even better, of course, or letting it join Maryland or Virginia so DC can be represented in the Senate, as well (VA would be best, cuz then that state would be solid blue). But this is the next best thing.

[ Parent ]

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