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Bill would end automatic election recounts, but close races could still have state-paid recount

A bill moving through the state House would eliminate automatic recounts in close elections but would still allow the loser to request a recount in very close races, and, if it’s close enough, have the state pay the cost.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Beard, a Republican from Shakopee, was approved by the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. There’s no Senate companion bill.

The current law, says House Public Information Services, requires automatic recounts for most state and federal elections when the margin of victory is 0.5 percent or less.

The bill would end the automatic part but let losers request a recount and have the state pay if the margin of victory is 0.25 percent or less.

Calling it a “common-sense bill,” Beth Fraser, director of governmental affairs for the Office of the Secretary of State,  said an automatic recount was triggered last year in a judicial primary where neither candidate wanted one. Although losing candidates can waive an automatic recount, the loser in this case didn’t bother to do it, she said.

The Star Tribune editorialized in favor of lowering the automatic recount threshold to the 0.25 percent last November, right after the close Dayton/Emmer race required a recount.

“Minnesota is one of only six states that allows for a taxpayer-funded hand recount of a statewide election when the leader’s margin is less than 0.5 percent,” the editorial said.

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