An election decided by a single vote may have had 35 of its votes cast in error.
The closest election in Minnesota this year was the House District 8B contest between incumbent Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, and Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff. Franson won by a single vote.
But election officials in Douglas County discovered that poll workers may have mistakenly handed dozens of 8B ballots to residents of neighboring House district 12B. The errors occured in as many as five polling places that had split precincts.
Franson asked for a Monday afternoon hearing to reveiw the election error. The hearing was moved to Tuesday morning, after the district judge withdrew, citing her husband's support for Cunniff''s campaign as a conflict of interest.
Franson's attorneys are asking for 35 random ballots from the precincts to be discarded to compensate for the ones that may have been cast in error. Cunniff's attorneys counter that there is no way to tell how many ballots were truly scrambled and for the recount to proceed with the ballots as they are.
The disputed ballots were cast in Alexandria precincts that favored Cunniff, Douglas County Auditor Charlene Rosenow noted.
If the new district judge hands down a ruling Tuesday, the county board of canvassers will meet to hammer out the terms for the recount. The state canvassing board will then meet at 1 p.m. Nov. 27 to set the terms for the 8B recount, which is likely to begin Nov. 28 and continue for several days.
For anyone who's ever wondered if their vote really matters, look no farther than state Rep. Mary Franson's razor's edge win over Democratic challenger Bob Cuniff Tuesday night.
A single vote separates the two, triggering an automatic recount after the state canvassing board meets on Nov. 27.
The board will also be conducting a recount in Senate District 20, where Democrat Kevin Dahle eked out an 82-vote win over Republican Michael Dudley in the open Northfield-area seat. State election law triggers an automatic recount in races that are decided by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote.
"This race is not over," Cuniff tweeted to supporters in the early hours of Wednesday. "Thanks for your support and prayers."
A one-vote victory is still "absolutely" a victory, an exhausted Franson noted Wednesday. As for the close race, she said she and Cuniff are neighbors, competing for the votes of people they both know. Franson, a freshman who attracted headlines and criticism for some of her controversial statements, also said state Democratic party had targeted her district with outside money and negative ads.
In the end, she said, "people know where I stand on the issues. They may not agree with, but they know my values and beliefs," she said.
If she wins the recount, Franson's second term in the Legislature will be very different than her first.
"That's something I'm still trying to wrap my head around," she said.
The canvassing board will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 to set a location for the legislative recounts. The recount should be completed within the next several days.
"Minnesotans are anxious to know who will represent them, but they also want to be sure that all ballots are properly counted," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said in a statement Wednesday. "This office, working together with our county partners and the candidates, will complete any recounts as quickly as possible after the canvassing board determines a recount is required with complete accuracy and transparency."
Taking advantage of the stalled plans to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, the proposal to instead build the project in Ramsey County’s Arden Hills was dusted off late Wednesday.
A group of DFL and Republican legislators unveiled what would be the fourth funding proposal for an Arden Hills stadium – this time calling for a suburban Ramsey County food and beverage tax that would be subject to a voter referendum in November.
“We’re still alive. We’re still around,” said Ramsey County Board Chair Rafael Ortega.
Coming on a day when no Vikings stadium proposal seemed to have traction at the state Capitol, the Arden Hills announcement was the latest plan as legislators and stadium supporters rushed forward with a variety of ideas in hopes that one of them would suddenly gain support.
A spokesman for Gov. Mark Dayton meanwhile said Wednesday that the governor had a "sobering conversation" with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell on the status of a public subsidy package for a new Vikings stadium, and that Dayton would talk again with NFL officials on Thursday.
The Vikings had last year agreed with Ramsey County to build a $1.1 billion stadium at a former ammunition plan in Arden Hills, but agreed to switch to Minneapolis when Dayton said that the only way to get a stadium public subsidy package passed at the Legislature this spring would be to build the project in the state’s largest city.
Now, with the Minneapolis stadium plan in limbo, some legislators said Wednesday said they want a revised version of the Arden Hills project back in play and said there was still time before the Legislature adjourns to make it happen.
Ortega said the referendum idea – which is a new feature of the plan – could also pass. “It could be close, [but] we feel we could win a referendum in Ramsey County,” he said Wednesday.
The lawyer who represented many of the victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse said he would “think twice” about giving the bridge’s state consultant -- URS Corp. -- more state business.
Chris Messerly, an attorney for many of the victims of the 2007 tragedy, made his comments in response to a report that the Metropolitan Council is considering giving URS a major contract for the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail line in the Twin Cities.
“You kind of have to think twice as to why the state would hire them yet again given their track record in our state,” he said. “We uncovered a lot of issues that were extremely troubling to us” regarding the 35W bridge collapse.
“This wasn’t in our view just a negligent actor. It was someone who deliberately disregarded the public safety,” said Messerly.
“Maybe they’ve remedied all those problems – I don’t know,” he added. “But, certainly, if someone’s going to hire them they better look to see if URS has fixed their problems that led to the I-35W bridge collapsing.”
The San Francisco-based URS was a state consultant on the 35W bridge before it collapsed, and paid $52.4 million in 2010 to settle a lawsuit brought for killed and injured motorists who were on the bridge when it fell.
A URS spokesman said the company was only a consultant to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and that the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the collapse was due to a decades-old design flaw compounded by extra weight on the bridge.
URS spokesman Ronald Low said the company’s team for the light rail contract was “uniquely qualified.” He added: “We strongly disagree with the issues that were raised.”
The Met Council has acknowledged that URS is on a short list of contractors for a preliminary and final engineering contract that would span six years at a cost of between $90 million and $100 million.
While he was running for governor in 2010, Gov. Mark Dayton said he was “just outraged” by documents showing URS' conduct prior to the bridge collapse. Dayton at the time said that, if elected, he would issue an executive order barring URS from receiving state contracts at least until lawsuits regarding the bridge collapse were settled.
Dayton however said last week he was still troubled by URS’ possible hiring. “The governor has very strong concerns about the state doing business with URS, and has expressed those concerns to [Met Council chair] Susan Haigh as well,” said Dayton spokesperson Katharine Tinucci.