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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published December 04 2010

Emmer still has questions as recount ends

ST. PAUL – A recount that ended Friday night did not deliver Tom Emmer the votes he needed to win Minnesota’s governorship, but he is not giving up until he gets a few more answers.

Depending on those answers, he could take the election to court.

When Hennepin County election officials ended their work Friday night, the five-day recount of all 2.1 million ballots cast on Nov. 2 wrapped up with Democrat Mark Dayton leading by about the same as when it started: roughly 9,000 votes. But work continues today as Emmer and Dayton’s campaigns begin examining ballots Emmer representatives challenged.

“I am not currently planning an election (court) contest,” Emmer told reporters during a brief Friday morning news conference at state Republican Party headquarters.

He and former Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, one of Emmer’s attorneys, said a final lawsuit decision cannot come until they get more questions answered. Prime among those questions is why the Minnesota Supreme Court last month ruled against them in a case demanding that the number of ballots and number of voters be reconciled before the statewide recount. Republicans think more ballots were cast than there were voters, a possible basis for a lawsuit.

The court ruled within hours of oral arguments that it would not order the reconciliation process, but said the reasoning behind the opinion would come later.

Emmer, a state representative from Delano, told reporters he expects most ballot challenges his team issued during this week’s recount to be withdrawn.

Emmer’s team has challenged more than 3,500 ballots, not nearly enough to overcome the 9,000-vote deficit.

Challenges may be made by representatives of either candidate while election officials hand-count each of the 2.1 million ballots cast in the Nov. 2 election. If an election official deems a challenge frivolous, meaning it appears to be a legitimate vote, the ballot is counted.

Dayton’s recount team has withdrawn its frivolous challenges, and Magnuson said Emmer’s legal team is going through ballots and removing many challenges.

Next week, the board is scheduled to examine about 1,000 challenged ballots and could also decide to look over frivolously challenged ones. The board is to declare a winner in the governor race by Dec. 14.

If Emmer takes the election to court, it could stretch the contest for weeks or months. He said Friday that his goal is to get a new governor sworn in on Jan. 3.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.