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Minnesota recount logistics: a pre-test in biggest county, three others in play, and schedule details announced

The auditorium in the basement of the Hennepin County Government Center was abuzz this morning with recount excitement — for recount geeks, that is.

It’s called the Post-Election Review, and by law, every county conducts one. It’s not a recount per se, but it has the feel and look of one.

According to state law, to audit the accuracy of voting machines, each county, depending on its size, randomly selects a handful of precincts and then hand-counts the ballots from those locations.

The secretary of state’s website has an understandable explanation of how different-size counties recount different numbers of precincts; this morning and afternoon in Hennepin County, 13 precincts were reviewed for the governor’s race and U.S. House.

Rows of tables were in place by 9 a.m., along with elections officials from various cities in the county.

Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith oversaw the process, along with Senior Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Dan Rogan. Tony Trimble, one of Rep. Tom Emmer’s lawyers, was on hand. Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, quarterbacked by Mark Halvorson, had observers, too.

Each candidate had an observer at each of the counting tables, along with CEIMN.

It was sort of spring training for the real recount, which is set to begin Nov. 29. One big exception: The candidates’ reps weren’t permitted to challenge any decisions by the election officials at the counting tables.

Halvorson, who’s been monitoring elections for a while, said in 2006 there were virtually no candidate observers at the PERs that he witnessed. But 2008’s U.S. Senate recount changed all of that. Today, the auditorium was crammed with TV cameras, party observers and curious hangers-on.

Results were pending as we posted this. But if this audit is similar to the canvassing that went on last week, don’t expect massive swings in election results. Last week, every county examined and re-tabulated the returns from every precinct. In that thorough exercise, there was a change of 101 votes statewide out of more than 2 million cast, with Emmer’s trailing gap closing a bit.

By the way . . .

Three Minnesota House races remain in recount mode, and will be settled beginning Nov. 29, just like the governor’s race.

The closest is in House District 15B, where St. Cloud State professor King Banaian leads Carol Lewis by 10 — count ’em, 10 — votes out of  10,971 cast. That district includes precincts in three counties (Stearns County plus small parts of Benton and Sherburne counties).

 A House seat in Rice and Scott counties has a 31-vote margin. Another in Freeborn and Mower counties has a 57-vote gap.

Recount locations and dates

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State’s Office today announced the dates, times and locations for recounts statewide. Every county is slated to begin the governor’s recount process on Nov. 29. Here’s the full list (PDF) county by county.

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