Recount proceeds smoothly

by James Nord

After a verbal tussle between Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer’s attorneys in the early stages of Minnesota’s gubernatorial recount, things fell into a groove at the Hennepin County Government Center as the first day of a roughly two-week process progressed. Less than 9,000 votes separate the two candidates.

Despite the bustle of activity surrounding the cordoned-off recount zones tucked deep in the Government center, the affair proceeded with quiet, if crazed, efficiency. A Minneapolis Police officer passing through the area asked, “What recount?”

Dozens of nonpartisan volunteers counted 25 precincts at a time in two rooms at the Government center. They’ll hand count the 468,000 votes cast in Hennepin County. Roughly 5 precincts have currently been recounted.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Emmer recount Attorney Tony Trimble said.

About 50 observers for the Emmer campaign watched the nonpartisan volunteers count ballots, 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.

County officials bustled between counting tables, whisking off “frivolously” challenged ballots. At about 12 p.m., 27 ballots had been challenged, though only two were considered legitimate. The Secretary of State’s 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.

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’ current location “just to make sure everything is above board,” county spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said.