Some Dakota County election outcomes that had appeared to be final Tuesday night flipped by Wednesday morning as county election officials continued to upload absentee ballot votes onto the Minnesota Secretary of State's elections website.
The result: Some candidates believed they had won or lost Tuesday, only to be surprised when they found those numbers changed a few hours later.
Returns on Tuesday night showed Dakota County Commissioner Chris Gerlach beating challenger Mary Hamann-Roland by 9 percentage points. Hamann-Roland, who is mayor of Apple Valley, said she went to bed about 1:30 a.m. feeling the totals didn't seem to reflect heavy turnout.
"I thought to myself, these numbers just don't look right," said Hamann-Roland. She told herself that the results "were in God's hands."
She awoke at 5 a.m. to a text message from a friend congratulating her on winning. When she brought up the website, she said the totals finally looked realistic given the number of expected voters — and they showed she had won by 15 percentage points. She learned that absentee ballots had made the difference, she said.
"I have such a grateful heart," she said.
Inver Grove Heights City Council Member Brenda Dietrich, who ran for mayor, also noticed the shifting numbers. "It was just a wild ride last night," she said.
The Secretary of State's website reported just after 9 p.m. Tuesday that with all precincts reporting, Dietrich had defeated fellow Council Member Tom Bartholomew by 91 votes, a result reported by the Star Tribune.
ByWednesday morning, however, Bartholomew was on top with 445 more votes than Dietrich.
Andy Lokken, Dakota County's elections director, said the confusion occurred because the Secretary of State's website marked precincts as done reporting when even just a few batches of absentee ballots were uploaded.
"That's my theory of what happened," he said, adding that he hadn't heard of similar issues in other counties.
Lokken said that county officials heard comments on social media throughout the night that Dakota County wasn't uploading its absentee ballots, which he said wasn't true. A few county commissioners realized that the number of votes recorded didn't make sense given the high turnout, Lokken said.
Dietrich called the situation "strange," though she said she wasn't upset or doubtful of the results. "Whatever will be, will be," she said.
Inver Grove Heights saw two new City Council members elected, Sue Gliva and John K. Murphy. Each won with about 26% of the vote, ousting several opponents including incumbent Kara Perry. Their vote totals shifted slightly overnight but the outcome remained the same.