Recount rattles officials

Partisan representatives left election workers feeling “under attack” on day one of the recount.

James Nord

A verbal dustup between representatives for Republican Tom Emmer and nonpartisan recount officials in Hennepin County was one of many instances on Monday that left table judges feeling “under attack,” county elections manager Rachel Smith said.

Miscommunication about recount rules issued by the State Canvassing Board led to “three or four” Emmer representatives ganging up on officials over ballot-challenging procedure in some cases.

“They were attacked,” Emmer attorney Tony Trimble admitted while arguing with Smith about the correct methodology.

“Table by table, we had problems [with protocol],” he said.

One heated exchange began as a table of ballot counters started tallying without a partisan representative present. It quickly devolved into a group argument.

“YouâÄôre ridiculous,” an Emmer lawyer said to an attorney for Mark Dayton, pacing away. In the end, the table had to re-recount the precinct, taxing already frayed tempers.

Smith called hand-counting the ballots “exhausting.” About 150 staff and volunteers worked at 25 stations Monday re-tallying about 50 of the countyâÄôs 425 precincts. Their goal was to hand count 65,000 ballots of the 470,000 cast in Hennepin County.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, Emmer had lost four votes in the recount process while Dayton grabbed 20 extra âÄî still about 200 shy of a 9,000 vote lead. Nearly one million ballots were counted statewide.

About 50 observers for the Emmer campaign watched the ballot count, or waited to sub in once the tedious work bested one of their fellow partisan representatives. Trimble estimated the Dayton campaign had roughly the same number of volunteers.

The Dayton camp sent about 2,000 volunteers across the state, outnumbering EmmerâÄôs volunteers three to one by its estimate.

Despite the initial problems, things smoothed over as recount officials hit a groove in the afternoon, Smith said. Workers moved almost frantically, clearing ballots and hauling in new ones on industrial carts in the Hennepin County Government Center.

Suburban precincts in Bloomington and Minnetonka were counted Monday. County officials anticipate focusing on Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Partisan representatives challenged as many as 50 ballots in one of the few Minneapolis precincts officials began recounting Monday.

Another 170 ballots were challenged throughout the day, though 150 were deemed “frivolous,” Smith said. The Emmer camp accounted for about 95 percent of the frivolous challenges. With a comfortable lead, Dayton doesnâÄôt need to aggressively challenge ballots.

The Secretary of StateâÄôs office made it easier to throw out a ballot challenge as frivolous after the 2008 U.S. Senate recount, where thousands of challenged votes gummed up the court system.

Nearly 400 ballots were challenged statewide on Monday âÄìâÄì 281 by Emmer and 86 by Dayton.

About half were deemed frivolous, according to Dayton camp estimates at 1:45 p.m. More than 90 percent of the challenges were from Emmer representatives, Dayton recount spokeswoman Denise Cardinal said.

Ballots cast in Hennepin County were transferred to the Government Center shortly after the election by police and held in a secure area near the recount zones “just to make sure everything is above board,” county spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said.

Smith expects the county to have final results in about a week, and the recount is scheduled to end Dec. 14.