Echoing Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Coleman "was certified the winner" in the Minnesota Senate race against Al Franken, adding, "Coleman won by a mere 215 votes." In fact, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board did not certify a winner in the Senate race, having authorized an automatic recount of ballots for that race.
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Echoing a false claim made by Sen. Norm Coleman's (R-MN) campaign, host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed on the November 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that Coleman "was certified the winner" in the Minnesota Senate race against Democratic challenger Al Franken. O'Reilly added: "Coleman won by a mere 215 votes." In fact, during the November 18 meeting of the Minnesota State Canvassing Board, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie stated that the board was signing a certificate declaring that "[e]xcept for the offices of U.S. senator, state senator District 16, state representative Districts 12b and 16a, the candidates who received the highest number of votes cast for each office voted on in more than one county is hereby declared 'elected.' " Ritchie then explained: "This is the certificate that we are signing one at a time, and it declares the winner in all but four races. And in those four races, they will receive the same process at the end of the recount."
Ritchie's office released a statement that day asserting that "Minnesota law triggers automatic recounts when the vote margin between the top two candidates in federal, state, or judicial races is less than one-half of one percent in a general election." It further stated: "The board reviewed and adopted election results with the exception of those requiring automatic recounts." The statement also quoted Ritchie asserting: "Only when this recount is complete in its entirety will we know who is elected."
Several news outlets also reported that the board did not certify vote totals or a winner in the Minnesota Senate race. The Star Tribune reported on November 19 that the board "did not certify vote totals in the Senate race." The Pioneer Press reported in a November 19 article that the board "declare[d] winners ... in all but four" Minnesota election contests, including "the U.S. Senate race." The Press quoted Ritchie as saying, "We do not know the winner of four races until the completion of the process." Additionally, the West Central Tribune reported on November 19 that the "Senate race is among the four without a certified winner pending the recount."
Additionally, Ritchie reportedly "dismissed" the Coleman campaign's statement that Coleman "was confirmed as the winner" in the race. In the statement, Coleman for Senate Campaign Manager Cullen Sheehan asserted that "Coleman has, for the third time, been named the winner of the 2008 election." Ritchie reportedly said in response, "We certified that on all but four races the winner is known."
From the November 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: "Factor Follow-up" segment tonight: Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman was certified the winner in his race against Al Franken today. Coleman won by a mere 215 votes. But about 400,000 voters in Minnesota rejected Franken, while voting for Obama. They crossed the ticket to support Coleman, a stunning statistic.
From the November 18 meeting of the Minnesota State Canvassing Board:
RITCHIE: We will move now to the signing of the certificate, and with -- for the benefit of the audience, I would like to read this.
"We, the undersigned, legally constituted state canvassing board, as required by law" -- and I think -- is there a good pen and all of that? Where's that original? Do you want to start it? [inaudible] "As required by law, canvassed on November 18th, 2008, the certified copies of the statements made by the county canvassing boards of the votes cast at the November 4th, 2008, state general election for presidential electors, U.S. Senate, U.S. representatives, state representatives, state constitutional amendment, and state judicial offices. We have also received the report of the 2008 postelection review, held pursuant to law, containing the changes and the number of votes counted by candidates for the offices of presidential electors, U.S. Senate, U.S. representatives in the precincts reviewed in each county of the state pursuant to Minnesota statute section 206.89, we have incorporated the indicated changes into the following report of the votes cast at the 2008 state general election.
"We specify in the following report the names of the persons who received votes and the number received by each in the several counties in which they were cast as reported by the county canvassing boards and adjusted by the report of the postelection review. Except for the offices of U.S. senator, state senator District 16, state representative Districts 12b and 16a, the candidates who received the highest number of votes cast for each office voted on in more than one county is hereby declared 'elected.' "
This is the certificate that we are signing one at a time, and it declares the winner in all but four races. And in those four races, they will receive the same process at the end of the recount. And the report triggers the counting by hand of the four races, which will begin tomorrow morning. And we have the task today of considering the procedures for the recount plans, which will now be presented by [Minnesota state elections director] Mr. Gary Poser.