If you're confused about the twists and turns of the recount in the U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, here's an attempt to straighten things out.
Q Two weeks ago, the counties finished their recounting and Coleman led by about 190 votes. This week, his advantage rose to 264 votes on Tuesday and 358 on Wednesday, but on Friday night, Franken was ahead by 251. How did that happen?
A Most of this had to do with the state Canvassing Board's rulings on ballot challenges.
Q What are ballot challenges again?
A Those are cases in which one campaign disagreed with how the recount official awarded a vote after inspecting the ballot. Challenged ballots were set aside to be reviewed later by the Canvassing Board. That's what the board was doing the past week.
Q So why the big vote shifts?
A On Tuesday and Wednesday, the board dealt almost exclusively with challenges made by the Franken campaign. Because most challenges were rejected, most of the challenged ballots were awarded to Coleman, causing his vote total to increase. On Thursday and Friday, when the board reviewed challenges that were made by Coleman and rejected most of them, Franken picked up ground and went ahead.
Q Does that account for all the votes?
A No. There are a couple of matters still to be resolved. The biggest is allocating to each candidate the votes from about 5,000 ballot challenges that were withdrawn before the Canvassing Board met.
Those votes won't be added to the official totals until the Canvassing Board addresses the issue, possibly on Monday morning or perhaps Tuesday.
Q Any other issues remaining after that?
A Yes. Among them are absentee ballots that were rejected improperly by elections officials. It's been estimated that there are as many as 1,600 such ballots. The state Supreme Court ruled last week that the Coleman and Franken campaigns, together with the secretary of state and local elections officials, should set up a procedure for identifying and counting ballots that the campaigns agree were improperly rejected. That work needs to be done by Dec. 31.
Another outstanding issue is the Coleman camp's claim that as many as 130 ballots may have been counted twice. On Friday, it asked the state Supreme Court to make resolution of that issue part of the process regarding improperly rejected absentee ballots.