Interesting Recount Opportunity
I had an interesting opportunity today to participate in a state recount, stemming from the fact that the margin between the second and third place candidates in a judicial race was within .05% of the total votes cast. State statute calls for a mandatory recount of votes for the two candidates.
Minneapolis Elections jumped into action, making their Elections Warehouse and Training Center the counting center for the more than 40,000 ballots cast in the cities of Minneapolis, Richfield and St. Louis Park. Our Elections Director, Cindy Reichert, put out a call for help to Council staff, and I took her up on the opportunity to see the inner workings of democracy in action.
The Counting Center was already filling with staff from the three cities elections departments and clerks' offices, folks from the Secretary of State's office and others when I arrived at 8:30. I was impressed at the quick but thorough training we received, and at the efficiency of the recount when it started at 9. My partner (a personable guy from the SOS's office) and I set to work, sorting votes into three piles - one for each of the candidates and one for all other ballots. Given the dropoff between the top-tier races and judicial races, along with the fact that the two candidates in question had come in second and third, the 'other' pile was by far the largest. After piles were created, we counted the ballots for each candidate and tallied them against the machine count.
We found a few discrepencies, all accounted for by people who had marked ballots improperly but with clear intent. One voter had put a faint 'X' in an oval, another had circled a candidate's name. Over the course of three hours, these extra votes canceled each other out, adding minutely to both candidates' totals.
I had scheduled time to go back tomorrow morning, but the recount, which was expected to take until Friday, was completed today.
All in all, it was a fascinating experience, and cements my faith in the efficiency and skill of our Elections Department and staff.