Could a recount in Massachusetts Senate race become the real 'delay'?

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Senate Democrats are counting on their 60 seat member caucus to withstand any filibuster. The special election in Massachusetts for the open Senate seat previously held by Ted Kennedy is being watched closely. The GOP candidate, State Senator Scott Brown, has closed in on Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley. Rasmussen’s latest poll shows Ms. Coakley just two points ahead of Mr. Brown. This is an extraordinary change from Rasmussen’s last poll on the race showing Mr.Brown nine points behind a little more than a week ago.

The Brown campaign has said if the GOP State Senator wins, the Democrats in the state will find a way to delay Mr. Brown’s certification (more info here) before the Senate wraps up health care reform legislation and votes for its final passage. Mr. Brown has already said he would vote against the health care bill, while appointed Massachusetts interim Senator Paul Kirk (D - MA), who is currently keeping the seat warm until a new Massachusetts Senator is sworn in, vows to vote for its passage.

However, the race is currently so close, a recount could very well be triggered before any thoughts of certification or swearing in even happens come election night on January 19.

According to the General Laws of Massachusetts a recount can happen if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent. Hub Politics explains further here.:

If Brown wins, it probably won’t be by 10 points. Heck, probably not even by 5. So what happens if Brown wins by a razor thin margin? In Minnesota, Senator Coleman was ahead of Al Franken by less than 1 percentage point, triggering an automatic recount. And is it coincidence that magical votes start appearing out of thin air, favoring Al Franken? Well, that’s a discussion for another time…

According to Massachusetts General Law ch. 54 §135, a recount in Massachusetts is automatically triggered when margin of victory is less than 0.5% percent. I think in practice, the formula for a recount in this election will be more like this:

If Scott Brown wins by x%, there will be a recount (where x > 0.0%)
If Martha Coakley wins by y%, there will be no recount (where y > 0.0%)

It is important to remember the Franken v. Coleman senate race and recount. Former Minnesota GOP Senator Norm Coleman won the initial count by a slim margin(215 votes), yet the Minnesota recount not only took away Mr. Coleman’s lead over supposed “irregularities”, more votes were added to Mr. Franken’s final tally in the process.:

Coleman’s suit will focus on three key areas: those 654 rejected absentee ballots, an additional 150 ballots from Democatic-leaning areas that the Coleman campaign claims were double-counted for Franken and 130 ballots that were lost after election night but were included in the final tally after the recount.

By June 30, almost 9 months after the November 2008 elections, Al Franken (D - MN) was declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate seat previously held by Mr. Coleman. Mr. Franken became the magical 60th vote for the Democrats to push through their agenda.

The Brown campaign may be concerned, should the GOP’er win on January 19, with the February 20 date the Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office wants to set for certifying the winner, but a long drawn out recount process could potentially be a bigger problem on the horizon.

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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