The campaign of Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton has just made an announcement on the first day of the recount so far, telling a press conference that they have expanded their lead over Republican Tom Emmer, according to their calculations.
Dayton recount director Ken Martin said that with 21% of the total ballots now recounted, they estimated that they have gained 88 votes, to Emmer gaining 51 votes, for a total increase in their margin of 37 votes. Dayton went into the recount already ahead by 8,770 votes, out of about 2.1 million total ballots. (Both candidates will probably gain votes in the recount, due to the tendency to discover ballots that were too lightly marked for the optical-scan machines, but are easily recognized by the human eye.)
The Dayton campaign — which includes many veterans of the 2008 Senate recount, in which Democrat Al Franken came from behind to narrowly defeat incumbent Republican Norm Coleman — says they came to their numbers by having their many volunteers keeping track of the local election officials’ original judgements of each ballot, regardless of any challenges that a campaign observer might make.
Some obvious caveats apply, namely that we are dependent on a campaign’s numbers. However, it should be noted that the Team Franken estimates in the 2008 turned out to be quite accurate, after the various challenges were adjudicated or withdraw.
Martin also boasted of the size of their volunteer effort, which he estimated outnumbered their Team Emmer counterparts by a 3-1 ratio. It also includes 168 volunteers who are lawyers: “And we believe actually that with all the volunteer lawyers and all the paid lawyers we have at this moment, we have the largest law firm in the state of Minnesota. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
As for those challenges in this race, Martin said that Team Emmer have been responsible for the vast majority of challenges. Of the regular challenges that are accepted as valid by the local referees — which will be kept out of the count, pending adjudication or withdrawal — 138 have been challenged by the Emmer campaign, compared to 34 from Dayton. This would lead to Emmer seemingly closing the gap slightly, in the absence of the estimate listed above.
As for the challenges that are deemed frivolous by the local officials, Martin said that 221 came from the Emmer campaign, compared to only five from Team Dayton. Under the rules handed down last week by the State Canvassing Board, these votes will continue to be counted, but the challenges could be re-examined later.
Martin said that the largest group of challenges that were deemed frivolous came from Renville County, where over 100 challenges from the Emmer campaign’s local observer were deemed frivolous.
That said, Martin said that things were going smoothly overall: “What we’ve seen from both sides, from Representative Emmer’s side and our volunteers, is a respect for the election process. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of monkey business going on, at least today.”
Later on, Martin also contrasted the current recount with the 2008 Senate contest, which came down to margin of just a few hundred votes: “Our message is this: 2010 is not 2008. We have a 8,770-vote margin. We’re not in the same position as Tom Emmer — we don’t have to challenge every ballot…it’s much different than it was in 2008, when you had hand-to-hand combat on every single ballot.”
(Special thanks to our old friends at The UpTake, for providing a video stream.)