All quiet on the western metro front as — surprise! — first major recount event goes smoothly

The first potential big-time legal skirmish of the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial recount didn’t develop into much of anything this morning at the Hennepin County canvassing board’s post-election meeting.

All that occurred was a post-meeting, hallway, chatting-with-reporters staking out of positions that we will be hearing from now until Nov. 29 when the recount begins … if it begins.

The 27-minute canvassing board meeting was remarkably routine. During it, Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith reported that in the county’s canvass of votes, Republican Tom Emmer picked up six on DFL candidate Mark Dayton. That’s six out of 463,000 votes, or about 20 percent of the state’s total votes.

Smith also explained again what happened on Election Night when votes were double-reported for a while on the county and secretary of state’s website.

If the Emmer forces wanted to make a stink about it, they didn’t today.

But in the political message realm, one of Mark Dayton’s lawyers, David Lillehaug, and one of Tom Emmer’s lawyers, Tony Trimble, told reporters where each camp stands.

Lillehaug: “What we saw today in Minnesota’s largest county is what is happening all over the state. Election officials have done their work well … and are finding very few, if any, errors in their tabulations. As a result, it is again clear on the Monday after the election that Mark Dayton again received the most votes in the campaign for governor … We expect the result strongly in favor of Mark Dayton to hold up very well.”

Asked if he were confident about the reality of the votes now and Dayton’s lead, Trimble said: “We’re not confident yet. That’s what the recount is for … As we turn over the various stones and rocks, we’ll see how many votes are going to be switched and come our way … We’re tracking our deer quite nicely right now.”

He was asked about the Hennepin County error that Smith explained and reserved comment.

Bill Kelley
Tony Trimble

But Trimble noted that Dayton’s lead has shrunk a few thousand votes since Election Night as tallies around the state begin to shake out and get reported to the Secretary of State’s office. The lead at 2 p.m. today stood at 8,751.

The key today was that Lillehaug and Trimble, veterans of the Al Franken-Norm Coleman 2008 U.S. Senate recount, were chatting calmly with journalists and not raising substantive legal issues with the county’s canvassing board.

Two years ago at this analogous Hennepin County canvassing board meeting, Lillehaug, then representing Franken, took his first stab at including wrongly rejected absentee ballots into the recount. That meeting was a critical introduction for Franken, who was behind, to lay the foundation for a statewide effort to include improperly rejected absentee votes. Eventually, Franken’s forces won on that significant issue.

This time, Trimble and the Emmer effort had nothing similar up its sleeve.

Not yet.

But Trimble unequivocally stated that Rep. Emmer isn’t poised to waive the mandatory recount.

“No, none whatsoever,” he said.

He also mentioned a dustup at the apparently always troublesome University Lutheran Church of Hope voting precinct. In 2008, ballots were lost there.

This time ’round, there are allegations that new voters were “vouched” for improperly.

This is an episode that will be worth remembering, if and when the Emmer lawyers contest the recount.

For entertainment, the meeting was highlighted by various members of the canvassing board pulling 13 tiny items out of a Lotto-like drum. These were each numbered and corresponded to precincts in the county; next week, those 13 precincts will get a sample recount to judge the accuracy of voting machines and counting, etc. It’s called a “post-election review” and is designed to show the accuracy of the state’s voting system. That system will continue to be put on trial by Emmer and the GOP until this election is settled.

County commissioners Randy Johnson, above, and Jeff Johnson draw numbers from a lotto-like drum to select precincts for a random test of voting machines.
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
County commissioners Randy Johnson, above, and Jeff Johnson draw numbers from a lotto-like drum to select precincts for a random test of voting machines.
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
County commissioners Randy Johnson, above, and Jeff Johnson draw numbers from a lotto-like drum to select precincts for a random test of voting machines.

Meanwhile, in an announcement that reveals the GOP’s commitment to leading an organized recount, the Republican Party of Minnesota announced that Ben Golnik will manage recount operations for Emmer for Governor and the party. Golnik oversaw the GOP Senate elections and was former executive director of the Republican Party.

Also, Matt Kirkpatrick will serve as director of lawyer recruitment, and Janet Beihoffer has been named director of volunteer recruitment for the Emmer for Governor, Republican Party of Minnesota gubernatorial recount operation.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/08/2010 - 03:15 pm.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to complete the investigations of the allegations of Democratic voter fraud in Crow Wing County and at the U of M before proceeding?

    Seems to me that the ’08 election proved that transparency means little in recounting votes that were fraudulently obtained in the first place.

  2. Submitted by Howard Miller on 11/08/2010 - 04:22 pm.

    Not sure why poster Thomas Swift refers to fraudulent votes concerning the 2008 Franken v Coleman election contest. Both Mr. Coleman’s and Mr. Franken’s stipulated to the Court that fraud was not the issue for their contest.

    Evidence that has come forward since then confirms as much. The first felon (of some 80 or so) whose improper vote was cast had voted for Coleman, which seems ironic as it’s mostly Republicans who claim voter fraud.

    If anybody has real proof of election fraud, they should bring it foward to authorities right away. If they’re just echoing baseless charges made by partisans, they do a disservice to our state, country and election processes.

  3. Submitted by Christopher Moseng on 11/08/2010 - 05:45 pm.

    Mr. Swift (if that is your real name):

    State law is pretty clear about how things go forward. Any candidate, indeed any voter, who genuinely believes that an irregularity affected the outcome of the election, that person can file an election contest under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 209.

    In the mean time, there is no reason to “wait” for the allegations to be investigated, nor would any such delay comport with the law. The remedy for an aggrieved party is to file an election contest, not to hold up the results. An election contest isn’t ripe until someone has been declared a winner. So any delay in obtaining the certified results only delays the avenue for a legal remedy.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 11/08/2010 - 06:52 pm.

    At the U of M, the report was that two students were suspected of being vouched for by someone who didn’t know them. Good luck on catching up 9000 votes that way.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/08/2010 - 07:51 pm.


    “Director of lawyer recruitment”?

    “Director of volunteer recruitment”?

    For a recount?

    Who does the counting?

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/08/2010 - 09:42 pm.

    I believe the “fraud allegations” in Crow Wing county included a Tea Party observer who was upset by the caregivers of a pair of handicapped voters helping them to fill out their ballots (and, the T.P observer claimed, “coaching them”).

    Having caregivers assist those handicapped in any way with voting is standard procedure in Minnesota and completely legal.

    In other words, the only “fraud” in this situation was observation fraud, considering this person doesn’t seem to have known enough about Minnesota election law to provide anything useful as an observer, and was perpetrated by the observer him or herself.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/09/2010 - 09:00 am.

    Actually, it was “a few” more than two, Jeff..

    “The election judge at University Lutheran was told some groups were congregating outside of the church.

    After going outside to investigate, the judge came back inside and saw a group of “around 25 people” gathered close to the entrance, Gelms said.

    The judge walked up to the group and heard one woman ‘directing individuals, dividing up the group…and assigning vouchers to groups.’

    Gelms said the judge asked a woman taking one of the groups to the polling place if she knew the individuals with her and the woman replied she didn’t, Gelms said.”

    It also appears that it was a coordinated, deliberate plan.

    “The woman claimed she made a mistake and was just doing what Students Organizing for America told her to do, Gelms said.”

    The allegations in Crow Wing county come from two people, neither one of which have been identified with the Tea Party.

    According to the complaint, “care givers” were filling out ballots for people so mentally debilitated they didn’t know where they were.

    Other than that, you really nailed it Greg.

  8. Submitted by Chris Lafler on 11/09/2010 - 09:14 am.

    “But Trimble noted that Dayton’s lead has shrunk a few thousand votes since Election Night … The lead at 2 p.m. today stood at 8,751.”

    Mr. Trimble, where did you learn math?

    Immediately following the election, the difference was 8,781. Now it’s at 8,751.


    Thirty votes is NOT equal to “thousands”.

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