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Election judge in one county, Franken observer in another

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG
  • Star Tribune
  • November 24, 2008 - 8:17 PM

At the tables where the U.S. Senate recount is being conducted across the state, workers wear one of two hats: Either they're a nonpartisan election judge doing the counting, or they're a volunteer for the candidates, keeping an eye on the counting.

But a woman from Breckenridge wore both hats, on different days in neighboring counties.

For two days last week, Maggie Vertin watched Otter Tail County's recount in Fergus Falls, volunteering for Al Franken's campaign. On Saturday, she worked as a Wilkin County election judge in her hometown.

Reached Monday, she defended her dual roles as "politically active and impartial when necessary... [I] feel totally comfortable that I was fair and honest." She added, "I don't understand why this should be a problem. Everyone in that room had voted for someone. We were an example to show all citizens can be impartial."

Although Vertin said she told Wilkin County Auditor Wayne Bezenek that she was both a judge and an observer, he said he was aware of no such thing. "If I'd known, she wouldn't have taken part as an election judge," he said. "She did an admirable job."

Although the state Republican Party issued a press release Monday criticizing Vertin, Bezenek said he'd gotten no formal complaints about her work as an election judge.

"No one's complained to me, so nothing really came of it," he said.

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman took Wilkin County, with 1,814 votes to Franken's 1,074 on Election Day. In the recount, Coleman has 1,807 to Franken's 1,064. There also have been 18 ballot challenges: 11 by Coleman's campaign and seven by Franken's.

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