As if the prospect of a statewide recount in the U.S. Senate race weren't daunting enough for state election officials, consider the task facing the folks in Morrison County.

The county, smack-dab in the middle of the state, is the only one of Minnesota's 87 counties involved in all four state races that have triggered an automatic recount. Starting today, officials there will begin tabulating in Little Falls.

"Yeah, we're just lucky, I guess," said Russ Nygren, who has been through more than a few recounts in his 22-year career as Morrison County auditor. "I've learned these recounts can get nasty, with people getting over-unreasonable. Hope we don't get to that point for this one."

At stake, beyond the marquee Senate contest, three state legislative races -- none of which, proportionally speaking, are as close as the 215-vote margin separating Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

• In Senate District 16, which had no incumbent running, DFLer Lisa Fobbe edged Republican Alison Krueger by 85 votes out of 46,326 cast on Nov. 4.

• In House District 16A, six-term Republican Rep. Sondra Erickson trailed DFL candidate Gail Kulick Jackson by 89 votes of 22,044 cast.

• And in House District 12, first-term DFL Rep. Al Doty led GOP challenger Mike LeMieur by 76 votes out of 20,099 cast.

Working out of the county government center in downtown Little Falls, Nygren's employees will be supplemented by a two-member team from the secretary of state's office and plan to tackle the legislative races today, before turning to the U.S. Senate race Thursday. The legislative races also involve other counties, so the recounts will go on there, as well.

And while those three races have a far lower profile than the Senate race, Nygren said he fully expects observers from both parties, and possibly, at least one candidate, to peer over the shoulders of the vote counters.

"We'll accommodate them however we can because they've got a job to do, and we have a job to do," Nygren said. "Hopefully, they'll keep their politician-bashing to the side. And I told them if the Senate race was all they were interested in, they could hold off coming by until Thursday."

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184