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Emmer, GOP ask high court to reconcile votes

ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer says he wants the Minnesota Supreme Court to make sure that the concept of one person, one vote was followed in this month's governor election.

"There are pools of votes where there are irregularities," Emmer told Forum Communications Co. Wednesday, his first interview with a journalist since election day.

Emmer signed a petition asking the high court to order local election officials to reconcile the number of ballots cast in each of the state's 4,136 precincts with the number of voters. State GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said that the party has heard from a handful of election judges who said that was not done.

The Emmer-GOP petition submitted affidavits from elections judges in Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties staying that they did not think the number of ballots was compared to the number of voters in their precincts.

"The most basic right of our election system is one vote per voter," Sutton said.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to order the State Canvassing Board to make sure the voter numbers and ballots cast numbers are reconciled before a recount in the governor's race proceeds.

"Accuracy in the vote tally is of enormous importance in determining the will of the electorate concerning the state's highest office," the petition says.

If more votes were recorded than there were voters who signed in, state law requires election officials to randomly remove ballots until the number of ballots and voters are equal.

"There was some antidotal evidence of double voting," Emmer said, although that was not part of Wednesday's court filing.

Issues such as double voting and vote reconciliation were not fully addressed in the fallout from a lengthy and controversial 2008 U.S. Senate recount, Emmer said. Several laws were changed to prevent such problems again.

Emmer and Sutton said they do not know whether the GOP candidate would benefit if justices approve their request.

Still, Sutton said, "this is a potential game changer."

Democratic candidate Mark Dayton's recount leader, Ken Martin, called the legal move a delaying tactic.

"The Republicans are grasping at straws and delaying ... this recount from occurring," Martin said.

The Dayton campaign has no over-voting evidence, Martin added, and if it occurred the canvassing board should pick it up. "In this recount, we start zero to zero."

The canvassing board meets Tuesday and is expected to order a statewide hand recount of about 2 million ballots because the difference between Republican Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton is less than 0.5 percent, small enough for a mandated state-funded recount. Dayton leads Emmer by fewer than 8,800 votes.

"There never in the history of the United States been a margin this large overturned by a recount," Martin said.

Republicans say a recount would not fix the reconciliation problem because votes that should not be counted would be part of the recount.

The canvassing board, which meets after every statewide election, expects to declare a winner by Dec. 14. However, the losing candidate could take the election to court.

The petition Emmer signed asks the court to order the canvassing board to reconcile the number of ballots with the number of voters, something that Emmer said was supposed to take place on election day.

In one western Twin Cities precinct, for instance, Emmer said that 900 voters signed in while 930 votes were cast. If there were one or two mistakes in each of the state's precincts, "that is significant," he said.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., the parent company of the Woodbury Bulletin.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.