Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recount in 59B

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Terra Cole's campaign website.

There will be a recount in the 59B DFL primary.  Raymond Dehn beat Terra Cole by 19 votes - a margin of victory of just 0.8%.  The automatic threshold for a recount is 0.5%.  Because the margin of victory exceeds the automatic recount, the contesting party must foot the bill.  So if you support a recount, you can put your money behind that support through a donation on the campaign website.

A recount, however, is fairly limited in scope.  It will only verify that the votes cast were properly attributed to each candidate.  As such, overcoming even a 0.8% deficit would be rather difficult.  A recount will not verify voter eligibility; doing so would take a formal contest of the election.  Such a contest can only be filed by a voter in the district in question.  For the record, I live on the opposite side of the street and fall under the jurisdiction of 59A.  If I were in 59B, I'd have already filed an election contest - if the Cole campaign were amenable to such a maneuver.  That's because according to state law, a contest to an election can consider things like...

...(1) Irregularity in the conduct of an election or canvass of votes
(2) The question of who received the largest number of votes legally cast
(3) The number of votes legally cast in favor of or against a question
(4) A deliberate, serious, and material violation of Minnesota election law
If there is anyone who feels the same way, but lives in 59B, you have until 4:30 p.m. on August 22nd to formally contest the election results.

Ok, I take back whether I might have filed a formal contest to the election, as the contestee (that would have been me, in this hypothetical situation) bears the cost of the contest if he or she loses.  That could be one reason why nobody else has jumped in the fray just yet.

A contest to the primary could drag on dangerously close to the general election, and should only be taken in extreme circumstances.  The problem being that without a full understanding of what an election contest  might do, it's hard to determine through a partial recount strategy who pays for what and when.

Even though a fully contested election could take months to resolve, I would support such a contest to answer questions of legally cast votes and possible violations of Minnesota election law.

For a copy of the Cole press release, click here.


  1. I prefer to INFORMALLY contest the election.

    To do that, I need the voter sign in sheets which I want to post on my blog for public examination.

  2. On an unrelated technical note:

    Your "Captcha" verification has become incredibly hard to read, of late, as have the Captchas on other blogs. I have to click through, like, a dozen of them to get to one that's even readable.

    Why don't you just get rid of it and commit to clearing out a very full spam folder every week or so? It would make posting a lot more fun and easy and you might get more comments.

  3. Some of the press releases or other reports have mistakenly given a recount date of 8/22 at 10:00 a.m. The correct date is 8/23.

  4. Johnny Northside, you have no standing to contest the election, you are not a candidate. You could file a civil suit, but that requires a very sizable bond.

    1. Actually, he would have had standing to file a contest to the election, if he were able to do so before the deadline. From my reading of the law around this matter, any registered voter could file a contest to the election. (I'm none too fond of the fact that the contest had to have been filed prior to the results of the recount. Seems like that ought to change.)

      The potential cost if the contestant were to lose is probably the biggest reason someone hasn't taken that course of action though.

  5. I am quite content to contest the election in an unofficial and cost-effective way by getting my hands on the sign-in rosters and causing a public examination for anything suspicious.

    1. You have been warned in a public forum that its a crime to posts those lists. Looks like someone has delusions of grandeur. You may need to hire Jill Clark to keep you out of jail on this one.

  6. If you want them so bad Johnny Northside why don't you go down to the Hennepin Government Center elections office and ask for copies. Why does someone else have to do your dirty work. Are you too lazy to go downtown, ask, and pay the copying fee?
    If you want them so bad get off your ass and go get them! STOP demanding someone get them for you. We aren't your servants.

  7. I think you get them at the Secretary of State's office, just go there and get them

  8. No one in their right mind is going to go there, get them, give them to you and then be implicated in a crime.

  9. This back and forth chest thumping got me interested in this issue so I spent my day off investigating this issue.
    I finally got through to the Hennepin County voting office late Friday after calling the wrong number, but I think the problem is mute at this point.
    The 59B voter sign-in sheets are indeed available for public inspection.
    However, and this is a really BIG however, some of the information on those sign-in sheets is classified as non-public data. So Johnny Northside (or anyone else) would have to pay to have all the pages in all those binders copied one-by-one on an oversized flatbed copier, the non-public data redacted line-by-line, and the pages recopied. Considering there are numerous binders for each precinct, and the number of registered voters listed in all those binders totals somewhere around 28,000 (my guesstimate based on past voting totals) or more, the County says the cost is going to be several hundred dollars.
    I can’t imagine anyone so interested in scrutinizing voter rosters that they would pay that kind of money to inspect them.
    With regards to posting the lists online, I asked the county and also called the State and I got interesting information. The county and state shall/may provide voter lists, but there are certain restrictions, as listed in the statutes, and they can refuse to provide the voter lists if they suspect misuse or fraud.
    "No individual who inspects the public information list or who acquires a list of registered voters prepared from the public information list may use any information contained in the list for purposes unrelated to elections, political activities, or law enforcement."
    "Before inspecting the public information list or obtaining a list of voters or other information from the list, the individual shall provide identification to the public official having custody of the public information list and shall state in writing that any information obtained from the list will not be used for purposes unrelated to elections, political activities, or law enforcement."
    Generally, political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate for elected office, or ballot question. Typically, the lists are used for mailings and calling trees; the mailings and calls we might get just before an election.
    But the question remains whether it would be a violation to post the voter lists online, and the answer is: That does not fall under political activity, according to the various people I talked to.
    Further, when you obtain the lists you must sign that statement that you will not use the lists for an unrelated purpose. An unrelated purpose would be to use the lists to send out paper "junk mail" unrelated to a political purpose, or everyone's favorite SPAM emails.
    Re-publishing of the lists is not considered an activity related to elections or political activities because you are not doing anything to promote the success or failure of a political party, or candidate for elected office, or ballot question. Releasing the voter lists to the public violates the requirement that only registered voters may obtain copies of the list. If the lists were published online, such as in a blog, the Office of Administrative Hearings would get the complaints, and they have the authority to determine violations and levy penalties under the statute.
    Since it would also be a violation of a statutory law involving a Hennepin County resident (if JohnnyNorthside actually did publish the lists) the County Attorney could prosecute, much as happened in the 2008 election when he prosecuted a handful of felons that voted illegally.
    I’m still waiting for a call-back from a couple other state offices, like the Attorney General, but my opinion at this time is that posting voter lists online in a blog would most likely get you hauled into court, after you pissed off numerous voters.
    That is, assuming you care to spend $600.00, more or less, just to get redacted copies of the voter sign-in lists.


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