A Dec. 31 Newsmax article by David Patten on the Al Franken-Norm Coleman Minnesota Senate race recount uncritically repeats a claim by Republican Sen. John Cornyn that Franken "is falsely declaring victory based on an artificial lead created on the back of the double counting of ballots," adding that "Minnesotans will not accept a recount in which some votes are counted twice, and I expect the Senate would have a problem seating a candidate who has not duly won an election."
Patten makes no attempt to explain the "double counting" issue -- perhaps because if he did, he'd have to reveal that it's not an issue at all.
As Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com explains, the issue is based around the fact that voters who cast ballots on election day that could not be read by the vote scanner were required to cast a duplicate ballot. But for the recount, the original ballots, not the duplicates, were counted. Coleman is claiming discrepancies between the original vote count and the recount as evidence that "double counting" was taking place. But as Silver points out:
Coleman's proposed remedy is that original ballots should be thrown out in any instances where they can't be paired with duplicates. If that remedy is adopted, then each of two things will happen: (#1) The state will prevent some ballots from being double-counted, and (#2) The state will also throw out some perfectly legal ballots. The process of identifying potential double-counted ballots is simply too imprecise to have the one thing without the other.
Can these two harms be weighed against one another? Suppose that if you rule on Coleman's behalf, you'll prevent 20 votes from being counted twice, but also throw out 20 legal votes. Most of us would probably not consider that to be a productive trade-off. But what if you could prevent 30 votes from being double-counted, in exchange for throwing out 10 legal ballots? Does the trade-off then become acceptable? Should you double-count 50 ballots if it prevents one voter from having his vote thrown out? Or, does the right of a voter to have his vote counted inherently trump that of the risk of counting some other voter's ballot twice?
By not explaining the duplicate ballot issue, Patten falsely suggests the issue has legitimacy when, in fact, it appears it's just a tactic by Coleman and fellow Republicans to forestall a Franken victory.