Here we go again...
It looks like Minnesota could be set for another statewide recount, just two years after the highly contentious Senate race that pitted incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman against Democratic activist and former comedian Al Franken. As we all know, Franken ultimately prevailed by a 312-vote margin, reversing a similarly narrow Coleman lead at the start of the recount -- but not after an extended legal battle that delayed Franken's seating all the way into July of 2009.
As the Star Tribune
reports, Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton now leads Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer by 0.43%, a raw-vote lead of about 9,000, with 20 precincts left to count. This is below a margin of 0.5%, which under state law would trigger an automatic hand recount.
My first (and very rough) impression, as someone who covered the Senate recount very extensively, is that Dayton should probably win. During the 2008 recount, the ranges of human error (typos in spreadsheets, ballots that the machines didn't fully scan, etc.) were ultimately so minor -- and distributed roughly equally -- that the most they could manage was a swing of a few hundred votes out of 2.9 million ballots in that election. Minnesota's election system is run well enough that 9,000 votes is probably too much to overcome.
Then again, there's always the chance that those 20 precincts could be really good for Emmer, and that some big errors could be found to make things even closer. In which case...well, at least Minnesota knows how to run these things.