GOP's tall order: find 9K votes in Minn. gov. race

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 5:07 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Republicans in Minnesota face a tall order as they head into a likely recount in the state's unsettled governor's race - and history suggests the odds are against them.

For now, Republican Tom Emmer is staring at an 8,700-vote deficit to Democrat Mark Dayton. The exact difference he needs to make up won't be known until the state canvassing board meets to certify tallies.

But for all the months and millions spent sorting out the state's 2008 Senate race, there was a net shift of only 787 votes in eventual winner Al Franken's favor.

While some Republican leaders still think Emmer can win, others concede a comeback will be difficult.

"The reality of dealing with a recount on a machine-based election system is you're just not going to see that much wiggle," said lawyer Fritz Knaak, who was on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's legal team. "I hope I'm wrong."

Emmer hasn't appeared or spoken publicly in more than a day. Dayton has said he welcomes a recount as long as it's done quickly because the next governor is supposed to assume office on Jan. 3.

One measure of the tough task for Emmer emerged Thursday: State Elections Director Gary Poser said the pile of rejected absentee ballots stood at 3,021, about one-fourth the number that wound up being reviewed in the 2008 race. Poser said even the present figure could shrink.

"We also don't know if any of these 3,000 then were notified their ballot was rejected and they went and voted in person," Poser said.

Richard Hasen, an elections expert from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said he had never heard of a lead the size of Dayton's being overturned in a recount, barring something extraordinary.

"I can't remember anything close," he said. "To get such a large number, there either has to be some stack of ballots that were not counted, some major kind of technological failure or fraud."

The Minnesota Republican Party, which is coordinating recount strategy for Emmer, is arguing that tallies in a 2006 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota changed by 20,000 votes between Election Day and the official canvass. In fact, the shift that year among five candidates was 4,248 votes, with all candidates' totals shrinking.

Still, GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said there are enough questions with the way the election was handled to aggressively examine the process and results.

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