A Minnesota judge has granted Franken's request to proceed in investigating the absentee ballots that were thrown out, in the hope of finding people who were actually eligible to vote, but could not be verified as such by the state.
Thare are no firm numbers statewide as to the total amount of rejected absentee ballots, but Minnesota's largest county -- which makes up about 22% of the state population -- had about 461 such ballots... so it seems reasonable to assume we're talking about around four times that amount.
Basically, Franken's people will be doing the legwork that the state doesn't do on these ballots, to locate the voters and determine whether they were eligible to vote. If they find a supporter of theirs who was eligible to vote, that voter can -- with the Franken campaign's help -- go to court to get a judge to approve their ballot and amend the state total. This process is entirely judicial and seperate from the mandatory recount process, and the Franken campaign would be under no obligation to get legitimate Coleman voters to go to court and get their votes approved. The Coleman campaign, however, would presumably want to do the same, since it's entirely possible that the entire election could hang on these votes.
Of course, there's also the recount itself which might win it for Franken.
A few key points on the recount:
1> Optical scanning has a failure rate that is higher when those votes are scanned in bulk numbers. Ballots stick together, get out of alignment, etc. So, crowded cities are more likely to fail at a rate higher than rural areas. Beth Fraser, the director of governmental affairs for the Minnesota secretary of state's office, recently said that her office estimates that as many as two votes for every 1,000 cast -- or as many as 6,000 votes -- may have been mistakenly rejected. If those votes go 55% Franken, 45% Coleman, that's a total of 3300 Franken votes to 2700 Coleman votes, or about 400 votes above the 207 vote gain he'll need to win. Of course, a significant minority could go to the independent candidate who came in third, so it's going to be close.
2> Urban voters are more likely to use older, overworked, more tempermental machines that result in voters trying to clarify their ballot with circles, checkmarks, etc.
3> There's evidence of a lot of undervoting, according to the current results, where people voted for say, Obama, but their vote for Franken may either not be there or may be unregistered due to scanning problems or some other factor. This could play a significant role in the recount.
So, Franken has a couple pathways to victory open to him... both of which seem likely to be slightly tilted in his direction.