GOP leaders hopeful, but Emmer's deficit looms largeby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — All but one of Minnesota's 87 counties have finalized their election totals in the governor's race and Democrat Mark Dayton has a 8,756 vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer. But the margin is small enough to require an automatic recount.
Republicans say they think Emmer can make up the difference and point to several ways he might do it.
"We are exploring a variety, a number of concerns, a number of areas where there are concerns about illegal vouching," state Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton said.
Among them are questions over absentee ballots and military votes and a computer filing error that briefly double-counted tens of thousands of votes across Hennepin County on election night. Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith has said her staff immediately realized the error and tried to correct the tally. Officials there have certified the vote total, the state's largest.
Matt Haapoja, an attorney for the Republican Party also said the GOP is aggressively investigating allegations of voting irregularities throughout the state.
But when looked at closely, it seems unlikely Emmer can find enough votes to overcome Dayton's margin.
Rejected absentee ballots, for example, were a major factor in the 2008 recount of Minnesota's U.S. Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, a race that Franken won. But changes to the law made the pool of rejected absentee ballots much smaller this year.
Unofficial totals from the state Secretary of State's office show 3,051 ballots were rejected. Ten of those were military and overseas ballots.
Even if every single one of those ballots were a wrongly rejected vote for Emmer, Dayton would still have a lead of more than 5,000 votes. The size of the Democratic candidate's lead leaves Dayton attorney Charlie Nauen, confident that Dayton will eventually be declared the winner.
"In recount terms, this is a landslide," Nauen said.
Nauen and other Democrats are suggesting that Emmer and the Republican Party want to delay Dayton from taking office. Nauen points out that most of the issues Republican Party officials are raising won't surface during the recount but could during a legal challenge.
That leaves Nauen thinking Republicans are setting the stage for a lengthy court battle.
"What I'm trying to find is somebody from the Emmer side or the Republican side to say 'These are the issues that are going to turn over an almost 9,000 vote differential.'" Nauen said. "Tell us what it is."
Sutton isn't willing to talk about those issues at this point. When asked for more specifics when it comes to wrongly rejected absentee ballots, illegal vouching and voter machine malfunctions, Sutton said wouldn't say.
"We're not trying to win the battle in the court of public opinion," Sutton said. "Any contest issue is a potential legal fight, so it doesn't make sense to talk about a lot of these things in specific detail until they're right -- until they're appropriate."
Sutton also said Democrats who are raising the issue of a potential legal challenge are trying to "bully" Republicans into backing down. He added that Emmer's side won't file a legal challenge unless they have "credible and substantive issues that require further review."
One thing that will be settled in the recount is the claim that machine errors could have changed the results. Local elections officials reported machine errors at 17 different precincts on Election Day but say they quickly corrected the problems.
The Secretary of State's office reports that none of those errors stopped people from voting. Any potential machine errors will be resolved when the hand recount begins on November 29.
One outstanding issue is potential voter fraud. The Hennepin County Attorney's office is investigating an allegation in a precinct near the University of Minnesota. Republican Party officials allege other possible cases where someone falsely vouched for a voter's residency but they haven't provided additional details.
Democrats say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.