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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 03 2010

GOP vows aggressive fight in possible Minnesota governor recount

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Republican Party is bringing in a Washington, D.C., recount expert to organize its effort to overturn a 9,000-vote governor's race deficit.

"The race for governor is not over," GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said this morning, outlining his plan to challenge Democrat Mark Dayton's thin lead over Republican Tom Emmer.

The race was too close to call this morning, with 100 out of more than 4,000 precincts left to report. If the margin does not change dramatically, an automatic recount will be needed.

Dayton had 912,442 votes, for 43.66 percent. Emmer's total was 902,609 for 43.19 percent.

"We are concerned there are so many discrepancies," Sutton said.

During voting on Tuesday, Sutton complained that vote scanning machines were breaking down all over the state. Then on Tuesday night Hennepin County made a 400,000-vote reporting mistake, which added 60,000 votes to Emmer's total and tightened the race considerably.

Sutton said that after the 2008 U.S. Senate recount that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, should have fixed problems with the process.

Ritchie said Tuesday's election came off with few problems.

If there is a recount, he added, the state constitution requires Gov. Tim Pawlenty to remain in office until a new governor is certified.

Ritchie said vote totals will change in the next couple of weeks as local elections officials and county canvassing boards examine their numbers. Once they send in their final figures, the state canvassing board will consider them on Nov. 23, and determine if a recount is required.

A recount could go on for weeks, and if there is a court challenge, it easily could go into January or later. The 2008 U.S. Senate court case was decided June 30, 2009.

An automatic recount is called if the vote margin is less than 0.5 percent. Although the trailing candidate can decline a recount, Sutton gave no indication that Emmer would do that.

Sutton left the door open to asking for a recount even if the margin is larger than needed for the automatic recount. And his hiring of Washington lawyer indicates that a court challenge is possible.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.