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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 28 2010

Minnesota Political Notebook: Emmer’s numbers may not add up

Tom Emmer’s legal team is looking for every way to find votes for him in the Minnesota governor’s race, but the main argument presented so far does not add up, a law professor and legal expert says.

David Schultz of Hamline University said that the Emmer strategy to randomly remove ballots because more people voted than signed in on election day would require 87,700 ballots to be removed to help the Republican’s campaign – and removing ballots would be unconstitutional.

Schultz went through a lengthy mathematical computation leading to his conclusion, but in the end, it was another argument that may carry more weight.

The state Supreme Court and State Canvassing Board rejected Emmer’s request that elections officials follow a state law that requires precinct election judges to count the number of voter signatures at the end of election day and compare it to the number of votes cast. If more votes were cast than there were voters, state law requires ballots to be randomly removed from the count until the vote and voter numbers are equal.

Schultz says that violates the U.S. Constitution.

Emmer’s attorney, former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, was asked in Tuesday’s State Canvassing Board meeting if Emmer could overcome Democrat Mark Dayton’s 8,770-vote lead. Magnuson did not directly answer it.

Since the practice is not to count actual signatures, Magnuson said that voter numbers may be inaccurate. “To do it by an approximate method is wrong,” he said.

Some observers say that part of Emmer’s legal strategy is laying the groundwork for an eventual court case challenging the election. Saying that election officials broke state law is one such move.

Commissioners leave

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Cabinet may be full of rookie commissioners when he leaves office Jan. 3, or whenever a governor’s race recount lets him move on.

Two of the latest departures are Ward Einess of the Revenue Department and Dan McElroy of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Earlier, Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget said he would leave before Pawlenty’s term is finished.

Also, Steve Sviggum of the Labor and Industry Department, a former House speaker, is taking over Hanson’s old job for the next month or so, leaving his deputy commissioner in charge at labor and industry.

“I try to be a good team player,” Sviggum told the Red Wing Republican-Eagle. “It seemed like the right thing to do for the team.”

A few weeks ago, Sviggum said that he would consider taking a job in Pawlenty’s expected presidential campaign, or he might consider running for another office.

Democracy pricey

In their effort to find Tom Emmer votes in the Minnesota governor’s race, the Republican’s attorneys asked the State Canvassing Board to change some rules.

That would require more work and more money, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.

“Sometimes following the law is inconvenient and expensive,” replied Emmer attorney Eric Magnuson.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.