Article published Thursday, November 13, 2008, at New York Post.


By John R. Lott, Jr.

IF Al Franken wins his Minnesota race, Democrats will get at least 58 US senators, giving them an effectively filibuster-proof majority.

When Franken woke up on the day after the election, his GOP opponent, Sen. Norm Coleman, led by what seemed a relatively comfortable 725 votes. By that night, Coleman's lead had shrunk to 477. By Thursday, it was 336. Friday, 239.

By late Sunday, the difference had gone to just 221. When counties finally certified the results on Monday, Coleman's lead had been cut to 206.

A pickup of 519 votes over 5 days - pretty impressive when you consider this was just from the correction of typos. A recount won't even start until Nov. 19.

Yet, the particular changes are unlikely to have occurred by accident.

Corrections were posted in other races, but they were only a fraction of those for the Senate race. The Senate gains for Franken were 2.2 times the gain from corrections for Barack Obama, 2.7 times the gain Democrats got across all Minnesota congressional races and 5.6 times the net loss that Democrats suffered for all state House races.

In total, the 519 net pro-Franken corrections were greater than the total changes for all precincts in the state for the presidential race, all congressional races and all state House races combined.

But it isn't only the size of the corrections that make these changes so surprising. The majority of Franken's new votes came from just three out of 4,130 precincts. Almost half the gain (248 votes) occurred in one precinct: Two Harbors, a small town north of Duluth along Lake Superior, a heavily Democratic precinct where Obama got 64 percent of the vote.

No other race had any changes in its vote total in that precinct. That single precinct's corrections produced a much larger net swing in votes than occurred for all the precincts in the state for the presidential, congressional or state House races.

Also troubling is that new ballots that weren't included in the original count are being discovered. While not yet a large number, 32 absentee ballots were discovered in Democratic Minneapolis under the control of a single Democratic election judge after all the votes had been counted. When those votes are added, they'll likely cut Coleman's lead further.

The recount starting next week presents an even bigger opportunity for fraud. There's often a lot of pressure to assume that people meant to vote even if they didn't, and it is hard for politics not to enter into these decisions. Yet, relatively few voters failed to record votes this election. Only 0.4 percent of Minnesotans who voted didn't want to vote for president.

Many problems become more obvious in such close races. From ACORN registering thousands of phantom voters to the lack of verifiable voter IDs, Minnesota has many problems with voting that need to be fixed.

But it is the sequence of extremely unlikely events that's giving Minnesotans real concerns. The state's one tight race just happens to be the one with by far the most "corrected" votes, and those corrected votes are occurring in the most Democratic areas - and, no surpirse, favoring the Demcratic candidate.

But the real travesty will be to start letting election officials divine voters' intent. If you want to discourage people from voting, election fraud is one sure way of doing it.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

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