Recount? Maybe

Minnesota has done it before -- and now we're on the brink of doing it again. The governor's race between DFLer Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer is close enough that it could trigger an automatic recount. Yes, Minnesotans should brace themselves for another painstaking examination of ballots, political vitriol and, perhaps, a still-contested seat for months to come. Here are some questions and answers on how things could go: What happens now?

Results right now are still unofficial. Dayton and Emmer are less than one-half of one percentage point apart in the vote tally, which could trigger an automatic recount.

But before that happens, elections officials across the state will recheck their results, which could result in some vote shifts. On Nov. 23, the state canvassing board will meet to certify results. If the vote is still extremely close, the board will declare the need for a recount in the governor's race and election officials across the state will start re-tallying votes.

Who is on the canvassing board?

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson, Supreme Court Justice David Stras, Ramsey County District Judge Gregg Johnson and Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly. Ritchie is a Democrat. Anderson, Johnson and Reilly were appointed by Republican Gov. Arne Carlson. Stras was appointed by current Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Reilly served on the judicial contest panel in the 2008 elections.

Who will count ballots?

In a recount, vote totals will be reset to zero and then election officials in more than 100 locations across the state will count the ballots. Candidates' representatives can watch and challenge the officials' determination on how a ballot should count.

What if we don't have a governor by the time Gov. Pawlenty's term ends?

The Minnesota Constitution says: "The term of office for the governor and lieutenant governor is four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified." There are sure to be legal fights over that language if no winner is declared by Jan. 3, when Pawlenty's term is set to expire. On Wednesday, Pawlenty declared in a statement that "I will continue to serve as Governor until a new governor takes the oath."

Wait. This whole thing could last until January? Really?

Really. No one knows when the election will be settled. The 2008 U.S. Senate recount and court fight lasted until June. Recounting ballots alone would last into December. Then the canvassing board would decide any ballot challenges. Once the canvassing board has done its work, it would certify a winner. But wait, there's more. After a winner is certified, the loser could contest the results in front of a three-judge panel. That election trial, known as a contest, would delay the certified winner from receiving an election certificate and taking office.

Appeals of that court's decision?

Those could delay the process even longer.

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