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Recount goes smoothly in Washington County

Recent experience and new state laws helped make for a mostly smooth governor's race recount in Washington County.

Election workers last week finished hand counting the county's 103,725 ballots, re-tallying votes for Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer. The process took two and a half days, said Kevin Corbid, director of property records and taxpayer services, the department that handles elections.

There was less tension in the recount room this time than there was two years ago, when election workers had to re-tally votes in the U.S. Senate race, an election with results much closer than the spread between Dayton and Emmer.

"The biggest difference was just the tension in the room," Corbid said of 2008, compared to this year's recount. "With the margin being so much smaller last time, I think there was more excitement and stress and tension in the room."

Corbid said the process also went smoother this year because of changes to the state's absentee ballot laws. Absentee ballots were the focus of the U.S. Senate recount in 2008.

In last week's recount, which ended Dec. 3, Emmer gained an additional four votes in Washington County when compared to the election night totals, Corbid said. The recount showed Dayton lost 17 votes, but the results did not take into account 40 ballots that were challenged by campaign workers. Those challenged ballots were forwarded to the State Canvassing Board, but Corbid said he estimated that 23 or 25 of those would be ruled as votes for Dayton. That would potentially giving the Democrat a net gain of around a half-dozen votes.

Corbid did not believe any of the remaining challenged ballots would be considered votes for Emmer, but said the State Canvassing Board will decide.

"I think on most of them the voter intent is very clear and will take very little time to be ruled on by the canvassing board," Corbid said.

There also were four ballot challenges deemed "frivolous" by election workers. All of those challenges came from Emmer recount observers, Corbid said.

The recount totals showed that Emmer received 49,145 votes in Washington County, while Dayton had 40,115 votes, Corbid said. That total excluded the 40 challenged ballots.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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