The campaign of Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton just held a press conference, claiming that his lead in the recount has now grown by 205 votes, as of earlier this afternoon.
Going into the recount this week, Dayton led Republican nominee Tom Emmer by 8,770 votes, or 0.42%. While this is within the 0.5% needed to trigger a statewide recount, many observers have doubted that Emmer could pull ahead, as Dayton’s lead is probably too wide to be reversed barring any surprising discoveries in the hand count. However, a possible drawn-out legal contest could potentially result in Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty staying in office in the interim, with the opportunity to work with a newly elected Republican legislature.
At the press conference, Dayton recount director Ken Martin said that in the precincts that have been recounted thus far — representing a bit over half of the total votes — Dayton has gained 271 votes, to Emmer gaining 66 votes, for a net Dayton gain of 205, and a current lead of 8,975.The Dayton campaign says they came to their numbers by having their volunteers throughout the state keeping track of the local election officials’ original judgements of each ballot, regardless of any challenges that a campaign observer for either side might make. These numbers are then compared to the original pre-recount numbers in those same precincts. Certain caveats obviously apply — we are dependent on a campaign being thorough and accurate in such a sensitive matter.
On the other hand, it should be noted that Team Dayton includes quite a few veterans of the Al Franken campaign in the 2008 Senate recount, and the Franken campaign’s field work turned out to be quite accurate. It should also be noted that Team Emmer isn’t providing daily tallies, according to the Associated Press.
Martin also said that the Emmer campaign has made many, many more challenges than the Dayton campaign has, most of which have been deemed frivolous by the local officials. Out of 624 total challenges that have been treated as valid by the local officials — thus taking them out of the count, until they are adjudicated by the State Canvassing Board — 512 were made by Team Emmer, against 112 by Team Dayton. With these votes out of the count, it would probably appear that Emmer will have made some headway in the running numbers for the Secretary of State’s next update — but still not enough to significantly narrow the gap.
“Some of the frivolous challenges that were released to us were just really absurd,” said Martin “and unfortunately beyond frivolous. They’re really just wasting people’s time.”
Meanwhile, Martin said that there have been 1,228 challengers from Team Emmer that have been declared frivolous by the local officials, to only 33 from Team Dayton. Under the rules handed down last week by the State Canvassing Board, these votes will continue to be counted, but the ballots will also be set aside and could be re-examined later.
Previously, the 2008 Senate recount saw several thousand challenges of ballots that were lodged by both sides, most of them frivolous. Under the old rules, all of those ballots were taken out of the count, as the campaigns jockeyed against each other to manipulate the perception of how the recount was going. The ultimate effect was that Norm Coleman’s lead of about 200 votes appeared to be holding up, when in fact Al Franken pulled ahead by less than 50 votes.
A reporter asked Martin why, in light of the different rules this time, the Emmer campaign was continuing to make so many challenges. “They have to make up 8,900 and some odd votes now, so they have to challenge a lot of ballots,” said Martin. “And ultimately, the rate of error in these elections is really small to begin with. So they’re looking for anything they can grasp onto. I don’t fault them for that, but we need to make sure that if people are challenging ballots that there’s something really wrong with them.”
(Special thanks to our old friends at The UpTake, for providing a video stream.)