Few votes changing in Ramsey County

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Recount Central

Commentary by Grace Kelly

With the UpTake live streaming the Minnesota gubernatorial recount and heavy media coverage in the Twin Cities and statewide, this recount is being closely watched. So the real news is not votes changing for Tom Emmer, but how well this recount is fairing.

Due to changes in law and changes in procedures, these problems have gone away:

1) When a ballot is folded in such a way that it cannot be read by a machine, two judges carefully make a “duplicate”. By law, only duplicates are in the recount. The originals can only be examined in a later step called the contest step.

2) Absentee ballots are now handled differently, in a clearer and more streamlined fashion, so there are fewer issues.

3) Everyone learned from the last recount, from judges on down to voters. The ballots are very clean.

4) The fact that every challenged ballot will likely appear online and be available for general inspection hinders the temptation to make outrageous claims.

The bottom line that was clear to everyone after the first day is this: there is no path that will allow Emmer to find the votes to change this election.

At the end of the day, I looked at copies of challenged ballots in Ramsey County. There were 55 challenges — 48 by the Emmer campaign and seven by the Dayton campaign. Based on my judgment and experience, looking at Dayton’s seven challenges, five votes would go to Emmer and two votes would go to “Other”. Looking at the 48 Emmer challenges, 35 would go to Dayton, 11 would go to “Other” and two are uncertain. Most calls are easy, based on a stray mark being called a signature to disqualify a ballot. Signed ballots are illegal on account of the days when people were paid to vote for certain candidates. So I do think that these numbers would be similar regardless of who looks at these ballots. The bottom line is that out of 39,000 votes counted in Ramsey County, we are talking about maybe only 10 votes changing due to challenges.

During the recount, more “undervotes” are being counted. Undervotes are marks made in such a light color or light shade that the machine could not read them but people can. Based on early results, it looks like those votes are breaking more for Dayton.

In every part of the election process, there are equal numbers of DFL and Republican judges, as this process is closely watched and monitored. Physical ballots are treated so cautiously that lawyers making a call are not allowed to touch the ballots. Even Republicans are commenting off the record that this is a clean process.

At Ramsey County, the sound level is very quiet and people are working intensively. We’ve heard the joke that what we are reporting is like “watching people watch paint dry”. This is actually great news for it suggests good government in action.

Due to widespread involvement in the recount, people are telling the stories of how well the system works, even by word of mouth. People are generally proud of our process in Minnesota and their involvement. People have been overheard in the corridor discussing what they have told their friends and family in response to false allegations about our election process. This is huge. Because of this recount, the people’s faith in the results of the election is growing. This means there will be even less support for a challenge to this election result.

One newsperson, commenting behind the scenes, describing the disappearing mainstream press coverage this way – “It’s Game Over!”

But The UpTake will remain on the scene, until the last out is recorded.

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