Minnesota's gubernatorial race will probably require a recount...and definitely needs some math lessons

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November 15, 2010

  By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Minneapolis, MINNESOTA:The fabled 10,000 lakes may never have been counted with as much precision as awaits some 10,000 votes separating two gubernatorial aspirants in Minnesota. Mark Dayton, who campaigned on a standard-issue Democrat platform of high marginal tax rates and an expansive welfare state, would have been in trouble were it not for right-leaning Independent Tom Horner. Horner's impact on the race drew enough votes from Republican Tom Emmer to cause most race forecasters to predict the race would go to Dayton.

However, nearly 36 hours after polls closed, the race is still up in the air. 100% of precincts are reporting and Dayton leads Emmer 919,238 votes to 910,382.[1] That razor-think 8,856 vote gap is almost certain to trigger a recount as Minnesota law requires a recount in any race where the top two finishers are separated by less than one-half of one percent. For his part, Horner, after winning 12%, conceded on Tuesday evening.

This won't be the first recount Minnesota has seen in recent years. The Franken-Coleman recount, which ultimately sent the former Saturday Night Live skit comedian to the U.S. Senate, was a vitriolic bloodbath. Then, the GOP instructed volunteers not to be aggressive in challenging ballots or disagreeing with the Franken campaign. That cost them dearly. Especially in a state that allows the hazy area of "voter intent" to be debated and challenged in a recount, as Minnesota does, recounting an election can be a campaign in and of itself.[2]   Even were Dayton further ahead, there is another reason to send the election to recount - Hennepin County. Home of Minneapolis and her 3.5 million metropolitan residents, everyone expected Hennepin would have a lot of votes. They were not, however, expecting 174,000 more votes than there are registered voters in the county.

Early on election night, Hennepin County was reporting approximately 880,000 votes. The county had 706,000 registered voters when registration rolls closed for the general election. And while Minnesota may have America's highest voter turn-out rates, 125% would have shattered all records. Around 11 pm, local time, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie issued a correction, largely in Emmer's favor.

Even without the closeness of the initial vote count, such a blunder would give Emmer grounds to demand a recount. At this time, Minnesota's Secretary of State has not yet decisively said there will be a recount or announced how soon one might begin. The state's official canvassing board will meet on November 23rd.

Meanwhile, the official tally on just how many lakes Minnesota has got is widely accepted to be 11,842.  


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