Minnesota Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer, who entered the state recount trailing Democrat Mark Dayton by 8,770 votes, just held a press conference and admitted that the recount itself would not change the result. Instead, he made a lot of hay over a different issue, attacking the possibility of precincts that have more ballots cast than people who properly signed the registers.
The takeaway here is that the Emmer campaign could potentially file an election contest — a lawsuit disputing the election result — on the basis of alleged voter fraud. A possible drawn-out legal contest could result in Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty staying in office in the interim, with the opportunity to work with a newly elected Republican legislature.
“This egregious disregard for election laws calls into question the integrity of one vote per person,” Emmer said, “and is, I believe, an assault on the very principles of the American voting system, diluting every legally cast vote. Again, that’s when you have more ballots, than supposedly you have people that voted in the election.”
He also added: “Remember the recount is merely a step in the process that ensures that there are no other irregularities that must be accounted for.”
Emmer concluded his opening remarks:
“Let me be very clear. I am not currently planning an election contest. Before I would make any final decision as to a course of action, we must know what the Supreme Court’s reasoning is for denying our petition, and the state must also know what the updated statewide voter registration system looks like, so we can make a determination as to how many potential extra ballots exists, and whether that number would be material to the outcome of the governor’s race.”
Going into the recount, Dayton led by 8,770 votes, or 0.42%. While this was within the 0.5% needed to trigger a statewide recount, many observers doubted from the start that Emmer could have pulled ahead — including Fritz Knaak, a former lawyer for Norm Coleman. By comparison, the 2008 Senate recount and litigation — a very sore spot with Minnesota Republicans, following the narrow come-from-behind victory of Democrat Al Franken — resulted in a net change in the margins of only a few hundred votes, which in that case was enough to affect a much closer result.
Ballot overages at precincts can occur for a number of reasons — while Emmer and the state GOP have not explicitly said it yet, conservatives are apt to cite alleged Democratic voter fraud. But other explanations can include human error, such as simple negligence by a voter and the table official who signed them in, or precinct workers who fail to fill in every absentee ballot into the full register.
Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled against an Emmer petition to require a full reconciliation process on this issue before the recount could go forward. Amazingly, it took the court less than two hours to hand down their decision, though they have not yet handed down a full written opinion. Emmer said at his press conference that he would need the court to hand down its opinion before he could evaluate the reasons behind it, and how to proceed.
He also said later: “The issue is, look for things that mechanically went wrong with the election. That’s not there, and is not gonna change the outcome of the election.”
Emmer also said that his campaign was prepared to withdraw many of the challenges that they have made against local officials’ calls of ballots — many of which have been declared frivolous by the local officials, and thus counted into the totals, but also set aside for possible later review. The latest figures from Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck is that Team Emmer has filed 2,839 frivolous challenges, with 2,113 in heavily Democratic Hennepin County (Minneapolis) alone. Furthermore, Scheck says, if every single Emmer challenge (both deemed legitimate and frivolous) were accepted, Dayton would still lead by over 5,000 votes.
As part of his discussion of the reconciliation issue, he called for full answers and a review of the reconciliation issue, and for updates to the statewide voter registration system. He also cited reports of thousands of apparent overages from the 2008 election, and of same-day registered voters whose subsequent registration notices were returned as undeliverable.
“Let’s make sure we have the same number of people voting as we do ballots counted,” said Emmer. “Let’s make sure we have people voting in the election who should.”