Recount to Begin in Minnesota Governor’s Race

November 29, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Election officials are keeping the 47-day slog through the ballots in Minnesota’s 2008 U.S. Senate race in mind as they prepare for their second statewide recount in as many years, but they’re optimistic the recount that starts Monday in the governor’s race between Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer will go more quickly.

Not only do they have the experience of the protracted Al-Franken-Norm Coleman squeaker under their belts, they now have the law on their side. In the wake of the 2008 race, which took six months for the courts to settle, the state changed some election rules to avert the myriad challenges that dragged out the process.

That’s why officials like Patty O’Connor, the elections chief in Blue Earth County, are confident things will go more smoothly this time.

“I think everybody understands the need for it to go quickly,” O’Connor said. “We need to get it done. We need to put this election to bed as quickly as we can. So I’m hopeful.”

In 2008, she recalled, it seemed like both sides tried to challenge as many ballots as possible, and challenges by one campaign led to tit-for-tat counterchallenges. O’Connor doesn’t expect a repeat thanks to new rules that make it harder to challenge ballots over stray pen marks and ovals that aren’t completely filled in. Other changes established a more uniform process for accepting or rejecting absentee ballots, which was the other big headache in 2008.

The official total certified by the State Canvassing Board on Tuesday gave Dayton an 8,770-vote lead over Emmer. That’s within the half-percentage point margin that makes a hand recount automatic under state law, although Emmer would still need to gain a huge amount of ground on Dayton with no clear source for picking up additional votes. Franken trailed Coleman by 215 votes going into the 2008 recount but emerged with a 312-vote lead.

At courthouses and city halls across Minnesota, election workers will open the boxes holding ballots Monday and sort them into piles for Dayton, Franken and other candidates as observers from both sides keep watch. Ballots in dispute will be set aside for counting later.

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