How the Franken campaign pulled off its detailed recount plan

Marc Elias, Jan. 6, 2009
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
Franken lawyer Marc Elias, shown at a Jan. 6 briefing, credits Stephanie Schriock for managing the campaign’s recount effort.

The Franken campaign isn’t divulging all the X’s and O’s of its recount strategy and massive effort, but this much is clear:

By Election Day, the campaign was fully prepared for a recount, thanks to the work of campaign manager Stephanie Schriock, who became “recount manager” on Nov. 5.

First and foremost, the campaign had a legal team in place and ready to file briefs from the time the polls closed. Marc Elias was the lead attorney, but he’s quick to say Schriock was the manager in charge.

“She was coordinating everything, from lawyers to volunteers,” Elias said. “She oversaw a huge operation, including fundraising.”

Franken’s main job was to raise money for a process that turned out to be far more expensive than either campaign expected.

Meantime, volunteers — including lawyers and everyday Franken supporters — were quickly trained so they could attend every district where ballots were to be recounted.

“We had a system for reporting in case there was any funny business going on,” said Franken of the work of the recount observers. “It turned out it wasn’t needed, but people were at the ready.”

Stephanie Schriock
Courtesy of Al Franken for Senate
Stephanie Schriock

Volunteers, hundreds of them, also were involved in carrying data from each recount station in the state back to Franken headquarters, which was operating 24-7, according to Jess McIntosh, Franken’s press secretary.

Volunteer lawyers and other campaign helpers were sent with depositions to the homes of absentee voters’ to detail “voter intent” issues involving rejected absentee ballots. The volunteers didn’t know how each voter had voted, but obviously, the volunteers concentrated on regions where Franken had had the strongest support.

All of that data helped produce the detailed charts and legal documents the Franken lawyers submitted in volume.

Headquarters was even more frenetic than during the early days of the recount than during the campaign, McIntosh said. Volunteer and staff morale was kept up with positive thoughts and lots of food, such as messages saying, “Lunch brought to you by the Franken Recount Fairies.”

“It was like an Irish wake, they kept coming with crock pots,” said McIntosh. “It was completely inspiring during an otherwise stressful time.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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