Statewide Recount In Governors Race Begins

Monday, November 29th, 2010 at 6:18 am

Today (Nov. 29) marks the official start to the statewide recount in the Governors race here in Minnesota. The official total certified by the State Canvassing Board on Tuesday (Nov. 23) gave Democrat Mark Dayton an 8,770-vote lead over Republican Tom 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.

Most experts believe it to be a nearly insurmountable lead, especially when you consider that in the recount of 2008, Al Franken trailed Norm Coleman by just 215 votes going into the recount. Franken emerged with a 312-vote lead.

So how does this all work anyway? Well, at courthouses and city halls across Minnesota today, election workers will open the boxes holding ballots 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.

However, those disputed ballots will be handled much differently this time than they were back in 2008. The Associated Press reports that new rules will be in place to make it harder to challenge ballots over stray pen marks and ovals that aren’t completely filled in. Other changes have also been instituted to established a more uniform process for accepting or rejecting absentee ballots, which was the other big headache in 2008.

Local election officials must finish the recount by Dec. 7. The canvassing board reconvenes the next day and is expected to certify a winner by Dec. 14, well before the Jan. 3 inauguration. The swearing-in could be delayed, however, if either side challenges the recount results in court.

A lawsuit dragged out the process last time, and Minnesota’s Senate seat sat empty until Franken was eventually sworn in in July of 2009. If the governor’s race isn’t settled by Jan. 3, it’s possible that Gov. Tim Pawlenty could remain in office until all the matter is resolved.

According to the AP, local elections officials agree: the experience they gained in 2008 puts them in a stronger position to avoid problems this time.

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