Democrat John Persell will return to the state House after emerging from an election recount with an 11-vote lead over Republican state Rep. Matt Bliss.
Persell, of Bemidji, went into Monday’s recount with eight more votes than Bliss. The Democrat previously represented House District 5A, which includes Bemidji, Walker and the Leech Lake Reservation. He served in the Legislature for eight years before Bliss defeated him in 2016.
Persell was one of many Democrats who helped win control of the state House from Republicans in this year’s election. The recount affirms that Democrats will hold 75 seats in the House, while Republicans control 59 seats.
However, the State Canvassing Board still needs to finalize the recount results and is scheduled to meet and review the recount report Dec. 17. The board will have to try to determine the voter’s intent on one contested ballot, said JoDee Treat, Beltrami County’s auditor-treasurer.
The recount was publicly funded and conducted in Beltrami County, with election officials from four counties bringing 16,903 ballots to be hand-counted.
“People can feel really good about how accurate and how efficient the electronic voting machines are, that going through the hand count you only find three that, for one reason or another ... would have to be changed,” Treat said.
Persell is an environmental policy analyst and was previously director of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Water Research Lab. When the Legislature convenes Jan. 8, he will step into a leadership position as chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee.
“There will be no shortage of issues,” Persell said, noting that he expects the committee will discuss mining, the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline, the chronic wasting disease plaguing Minnesota’s deer population and aquatic invasive species.