One one-hundredth of a percentage point

ONE ONE-HUNDREDTH OF A PERCENTAGE POINT…. Don’t look now, but things are getting pretty interesting in Minnesota.

Just as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was explaining to reporters the recount process in one of the narrowest elections in Minnesota history, an aide rushed in with news: Pine County’s Partridge Township had revised its vote total upward — another 100 votes for Democratic candidate Al Franken, putting him within .011 percentage points of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

The reason for the change? Exhausted county officials had accidentally entered 24 for Franken instead of 124 when the county’s final votes were tallied at 5:25 Wednesday morning.

“That’s why we have recounts,” Ritchie said, surveying the e-mail sent in from the county auditor. “Human error. People make mistakes.”

The margin in the tightest Senate race in the country bounced like the stock market throughout the day, with the difference between Coleman and Franken dropping, then rising briefly to 590 votes before shooting down to a razor-thin 236 by day’s end.

Coleman’s margin has gone from 725 to 477 to 341 to 236. All of this is before a statewide recount.

Why have there been so many fluctuations? The Star Tribune reported yesterday, “It’s because county auditors are finding minor errors as they’re proofing their unofficial numbers before shipping them to St. Paul, said John Aiken, spokesman for Secretary Mark Ritchie.”

At this point, the margin is amazingly close. There were nearly 3 million votes cast in this race, and over 4,000 voting precincts in Minnesota. If there was a single ballot that was overlooked or scanned improperly in every 17th precinct, Franken and Coleman are tied.

Which is why a recount is no-brainer. It’s automatic in Minnesota when the margin of victory is 0.5% or smaller — this race is down to 0.01%* — but Coleman is urging Franken to waive his right to a recount and concede. Why? Because, well, Coleman thinks it’d be nice “for the healing process.”

Franken isn’t going for the idea, and will allow the process to proceed. Stay tuned.

* corrected