A ballot scanning issue and a wave of absentee votes delayed reporting of Minneapolis voting results into early Wednesday morning, leaving local candidates unsure of their fate and skewing the reporting of results on the two proposals to amend the state Constitution.
Although the city said it had provided the “vast majority” of its results as usual, no totals were posted in school board races or for most legislative contests within the city until after midnight, four hours after the polls closed. and well behind St. Paul.
City Council Member Lisa Goodman called the delay “totally outrageous” and disrespectful to candidates and the public.
One school candidate she supported, Patty Wycoff, and Wycoff’s opponent, Josh Reimnitz, waited several hours before results started to appear. Reimnitz held a narrow lead but said he was "absolutely not" going to draw any conclusions until a hand count in three precincts Wednesday. Reimnitz was ahead by 573 votes with more than 80 percent counted.
In several legislative districts, no Minneapolis results had been posted even as St. Paul posted complete results in several races. The delay in the reporting of results from the city on the constitutional amendments also skewed the appearance of statewide totals.
Fingerpointing began between city and Hennepin County election officials. City Clerk Casey Carl said the county supplies the ballots that had technical printing errors that caused scanners to have difficulties reading them in 14 of 117 city precincts. County Election Director Rachel Smith said that cities are responsible for pre-election testing, but Carl said the ballots and scanners didn't cause problems when tested.
The delay arose from two sources. One was that Smith said the county isn't permitted to report vote totals until absentee ballots are tallied and reported. Carl said an “unbelievable number” of absentee ballots were cast. Smith said the city missed several deadlines during the day for beginning to scan those ballots at the county, meaning results weren’t posted until after midnight. Carl was unable to say why the city encountered more delays with absentee processing than St. Paul or other cities.
The other source of delay arose from the ballot-scanning issue. In once precinct, for example, when a scanner couldn't properly scan ballots, another was hauled in with the same result. Although a work-around was devised for most problem precincts, the delay meant that feeding those ballots didn’t happen until around the time polls closed, rather than through the day as people voted.
Three remaining precincts will be hand-counted starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. All of those precincts fall within the Wycoff-Reimnitz district, two in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood and one in Whittier.