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Carver City Council recount gives officials extra practice

  • Article by: HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA
  • Star Tribune
  • November 12, 2008 - 10:52 PM

The candidate who lost asked for a recount. The winner told the loser he should save taxpayers the cost of a recount.

"If the roles were reversed and I was the one behind, I wouldn't ask for a recount," the winner said shortly after the Nov. 4 vote.

Although the scenario sounds a lot like Norm Coleman and Al Franken slugging it out for the U.S. Senate seat, the fight on Wednesday afternoon was between Greg Osterdyk and Carrie Newhouse, vying for a seat on Carver City Council.

After the election, the two were separated by just 12 votes, with Newhouse leading 626 to 614 out of more than 2,600 votes cast.

After more than two hours of recounting Wednesday, Newhouse still emerged victorious. Her margin increased by one when elections judges took a vote away from Osterdyk; a voter who had initially marked his name had scratched through it and voted for other candidates in the race.

Osterdyk, who attended the recount at Carver County's administrative offices, said he was "absolutely" satisfied with the results. "I'm certainly disappointed," he said. "I certainly wish I had been voted in, but I respect the vote."

Test run

County elections officials viewed the Carver recount as a test run for next week's big event -- the U.S. Senate race. "That's how we're looking at it," said Mark Lundgren, the Carver County official who oversees elections. "We start the World Series next week."

On Wednesday, Carver and the other 86 counties in the state will start a hand recount of the almost 3 million votes cast statewide in the Senate election. Only 206 votes separate the two candidates after a bitter campaign.

The test run in the Carver city race proved useful.

Election officials found something that could affect next week's count: Judges initially rejected three of the 1,240 ballots inspected because they did not have two sets of initials from elections judges as required by state law.

"I've never seen one of these before," Lundgren said of the ballots that lacked the proper initials, "and we've had multiple ballot recounts."

The two sets of initials, generally placed there before the polls open, are intended to guarantee that each ballot is valid because there are no other identifying marks to show the ballot was distributed in a proper manner to a certified voter.

Eventually the county ruled that the votes should count because the voters' intent was clear and the lack of initials was considered a "technicality," said Laurie Engelen, who with Lundgren oversees elections in Carver County. State law also says that a voter's intent should not be thwarted by technicalities.

Engelen said late Wednesday that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office agreed with the county's decision.

One possible issue that could arise in the Senate recount, judges and election officials said Wednesday, is that the number of ballots without two initials could total in the hundreds statewide.

"I could certainly see where that could happen," said Patty Plekkenpol, the Carver city clerk who observed Wednesday's recount. "They're pretty busy on Election Day."

Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280

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