In D.C., Ritchie recounts Senate recount work

  • Article by: Mitch Anderson
  • Star Tribune
  • February 7, 2009 - 11:37 PM

WASHINGTON - Speaking in the nation's capital to a room full of colleagues and peers Saturday, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie shared what it's like to be at the helm of the recount team in one of the most closely contested state elections of all time.

Comparing the national media attention on the process to being under an electron microscope, Ritchie advised his fellow secretaries of state that the best thing they can do in such a situation is be as open about the process as possible.

Appearing as the keynote speaker at the National Association of Secretaries of State winter meetings, Ritchie credited the large public participation in the recount process -- from citizens watching the state Canvassing Board's decisions by streaming online video to the thousands of local elections volunteers who were responsible for recounting all of the states nearly 2.9 million cast ballots -- for making the recount as transparent as possible.

"This particular approach of partnering with local officials turned out not only to be the right thing from a democracy point of view, in that people could really participate, but it was about one-tenth the cost of a centralized count," he said. "It also carried with it many other benefits that had to do with the whole society feeling some ownership and responsibility."

In a recent SurveyUSA poll, 56 percent of respondents said they felt the recount was handled fairly, with 61 percent approving of Ritchie's work.

Moving forward, Ritchie said, he would like to see some form of early voting to relieve the sheer number of absentee votes local officials had to contend with, noting that the number of absentee ballots had doubled since the 2006 elections. He was also quick to remind the room that the process is still ongoing.

"We're not done yet," Ritchie said. "Stay tuned."


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