A Douglas County court has ordered election officials to discard 35 ballots before they begin their recount of a state House race that is hanging by a single vote.
There were "obvious errors" at three voting wards in Alexandria that led to residents of a neighboring legislative district apparently getting ballots for the House race in District 8B, district court Judge David Battey concluded Tuesday. State Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, ended up winning that election by a single vote over Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff.
All the ballot mix-ups were discovered in precincts split between House districts 8B and neighboring 12B.
"While the remedy in this situation may not be the ideal situation to the problem, the Court notes that it has limited options," Battey wrote. "Although it can reasonably be argued that the discrepancy in votes resulted from errors in the administration of the election or the distribution of ballots, the Court finds that the discrepancy ultimately resulted in counting and recording errors."
The solution, under Minnesota statute, will be to discard 35 random ballots to compensate for the 35 that were cast in error. Franson's attorneys were pushing for the ballots to be discarded. Cuniff's attorneys decried "the disenfranchisement of dozens of voters" and argued that the errors in this case should not trigger the removal of ballots.
The recount is likely to begin Nov. 28 and run for several days.
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.