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Associated Press, Published January 08 2009

Key Minnesota lawmakers back runoff for close races

ST. PAUL (AP) – Two state lawmakers with expertise on election matters said Thursday they will push legislation for runoff elections in statewide Minnesota races that end up as close as this year’s Senate contest.

Democratic Sen. Ann Rest and GOP Rep. Laura Brod said a runoff would take the place of a recount in contests where the top vote getters are separated by a half a percentage point or less. The top two candidates would advance to another election within weeks of the first.

“We should examine having an alternative to a recount when the election is this close,” said Rest, of New Hope.

In the just-concluded Senate recount, Democrat Al Franken edged Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes, about seven one-thousandths of one percent of the 2.9 million votes cast. Coleman has sued over the result, which will leave the state without a second senator for weeks or months.

Brod, of New Prague, said the recount process was confusing to many voters and has caused some to raise doubts about the outcome. While the runoff proposal wouldn’t apply to the 2008 Senate race, she said it’s a needed remedy for the future.

“It would create clarity. It would create trust,” she said.

In other states, runoffs are held when the leading candidate fails to get more than 50 percent of votes cast. The Minnesota lawmakers said they would limit the concept here to super-close races and apply it only in elections for statewide office, such as governor and Senate.

There is one big drawback to a runoff: The public’s cost of holding a new election would be at least a few million dollars. The Senate recount cost about $200,000, state officials say.

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