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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 24 2010

Minnesota State Canvassing Board in recount balancing act

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota State Canvassing Board ordered a statewide recount in the governor’s race Monday while trying to balance campaigns’ rights to challenge local election decisions with limiting frivolous challenges.

It was no surprise the board ordered a recount in the governor’s race, which Democrat Mark Dayton leads by 8,770 votes over Republican Tom Emmer. A recount of all 2.1 million ballots has been expected since shortly after the Nov. 2 election left the two major candidates within 0.5 percent of one another, the threshold for a mandatory recount.

Emmer said he wants the recount process to play out.

Dayton this week said that he expects to maintain the lead and become governor on Jan. 3, but he would not proclaim victory. However, he said no recount has overturned such a large margin.

Most of the board’s four-hour meeting dealt with how to allow the Dayton and Emmer campaigns to challenge local election officials’ decisions without piling up frivolous challenges like occurred in the 2008 U.S. Senate recount.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said in the 2008 recount, between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, 5,600 challenges the campaigns made were frivolous. There was no doubt those ballots should be counted, he said.

Ritchie’s goal is to reduce the number this year.

When the recount begins Monday in each county, Emmer and Dayton representatives will be at the tables with election officials. If an election official puts a ballot in one candidate’s pile, the other campaign has a right to challenge that decision.

Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson, one of five on the Canvassing Board, repeatedly said he wants to make sure the panel makes no mistake that could leave an opening for one of the candidates to take the recount in court. He admonished both sides to avoid frivolous challenges.

“All I want, honest to God, is to get this thing resolved so the people get the governor that they elected,” Anderson said. “I don’t want you guys to challenge this in court. I want to do it right.”

Don Davis is a writer for Forum Communications Co.