*Big boost for Franken

BIG BOOST FOR FRANKEN…. The state canvassing board in Minnesota got together this morning to determine whether to count improperly rejected absentee ballots. For Al Franken, obviously, the goal was to have the ballots included.

The canvassing board members agreed, making the Democrat’s chances of victory that much more likely. Eric Kleefeld explained that Franken’s chances of winning “may have just gone up astronomically.”

The state canvassing board just voted unanimously that absentee ballots that were initially rejected because of clerical errors — and the current estimate from the hearing is that there could be nearly 1,600 of them, based on some extrapolation — should be counted, probably the single biggest issue that the Franken campaign has been hammering ever since this recount began.

The board can’t directly order the county officials to do the counting, only making a formal request to go back and count the votes and then submit amended totals. But many counties have already begun or finished the process of sorting the rejected absentees at the board’s request, and board members did castigate any election officials who wouldn’t do so, with some of them even leaving open the option of seeking a court order if necessary.

Because of all that, it seems very likely that the vast majority of these ballots will be counted before this is over — and it could possibly seal the deal for Franken. Pre-election polling showed him winning the overall pool of absentee ballots by a solid margin, so it seems pretty reasonable to assume that the newly-counted votes will break for Al. If that proves to be correct, Franken will probably pull ahead of Norm Coleman and win the election.

The Star Tribune has more on this morning’s meeting, including a helpful explanation of the number of rejected absentee ballots tossed improperly.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.