Supreme Court steps into recount fray

Published 9:20 am Friday, November 19, 2010

ST. PAUL(AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court took steps Thursday to weigh in on the undecided governor’s race before a canvassing board meets Tuesday to order a recount.

Five of the court’s seven members responded to a petition from Republican Tom Emmer questioning the integrity of election night vote-counting procedures. Emmer trails Democrat Mark Dayton by more than 8,700 votes, a small enough margin to prompt an automatic recount under state law.

The court order sets aside time on Monday to hear oral arguments on Emmer’s filing, if the court determines that the hearing is needed. Justices Paul Anderson and David Stras did not participate in the order because they serve on the state canvassing board.

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Emmer’s filing, coordinated with the state GOP, claims that current vote totals may be inaccurate because some precincts failed to properly match up the number of ballots with the number of voters who signed login sheets. The process, called reconciliation, is supposed to happen on election night, but the petition included sworn statements from election judges saying it wasn’t done correctly in some locations.

Emmer and the Republican Party are seeking a statewide review of the reconciliation process and potential adjustments to the pool of ballots.

The recount is tentatively scheduled to start Nov. 29, with possible certification of a winner by mid-December.

Also Thursday, lead Emmer attorney Eric Magnuson asked the members of the canvassing board to require local officials to reconcile the number of ballots with the number of signatures on voter logs. Magnuson also wants the five-member board to determine the merits of all challenged ballots, instead of leaving some of the decisions to local or state officials.

Magnuson, former chief justice of the state’s high court, served on the state canvassing board during the recount in the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman.