About the recount: What to watch for today

  • November 19, 2008 - 12:08 PM

Starting Nov. 19, 100 election officials in 87 counties and several cities will go over each ballot to determine the voter's intent.

Who decides?

A recount official makes the initial determination on each ballot. All disputed ballots go to St. Paul, where the five-member State Canvassing Board will determine which ballot goes to which candidate's total.

How long does it take?

Last week, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said officials must complete their recount and submit results to the secretary of state by Dec. 5. The canvassing board will meet Dec. 16 and aim to finish up by Dec. 19.

How much will it cost?

Ritchie said taxpayers are on the hook for about 3 cents a ballot, or more than $86,000.

How will Star Tribune tabulate?

Unlike Election Day results, the recount tallies can be reported in different ways – which might confuse readers who see conflicting numbers from various news organizations or partisan groups.

The Star Tribune is focusing on the size of the gap between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, since that’s the way most people have been following the contest.

At the start of the recount, Coleman led Franken by 215 votes.

The number on the home page shows what the current gap is as precincts are recounted. If the gap between Coleman and Franken changes in Coleman’s favor in the completed precincts, then the 215-vote gap will grow. If it changes in Franken’s favor, then the gap will shrink or it will be in Franken’s favor.

 But also keep a close eye on the number of challenged ballots, because they could cause the gap to shift again when they are reviewed in mid-December by the State Canvassing Board.

 Another way that some sources may report the recount results is by setting the vote totals to zero, and reporting only the new vote totals for each candidate as they come in over the ensuing weeks. But those totals could show one candidate leading the other by thousands of votes based on partial returns – and yet if neither candidate has picked up a net increase in those precincts compared with the pre-recount totals from those precincts, then the overall gap remains at 215.

 In other words, don’t compare the difference in the statewide vote totals for Coleman and Franken to the 215-vote gap, because that would be an invalid comparison until every ballot is recounted.

 If that’s not confusing enough, keep in mind that the way news organizations collect and report data from recount sites during the course of each day will vary – and thereby result in inconsistent tallies. The Secretary of State will receive end-of-the-day reports from recount sites and will post the results on its website – -- at 8 p.m. each day.


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