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Recount process not as simple as it may seem

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If you think recounting ballots from an election would be a fairly simple process, think again.

The rules and procedures are detailed and complex. The Minnesota Secretary of State's recount plan for the Mary Franson/Bob Cunniff recount in House District 8B fills six pages.

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Here's a look at the plan:

Recount scope

The votes cast at the November 6, 2012 State General Election for the office of State Representative District 8B for Mary Franson and Bob Cunniff in Douglas and Otter Tail counties and for the office of State Senator District 20 for Mike Dudley and Kevin L. Dahle in LeSueur, Rice and Scott counties.

The recount is limited in scope to the determination of the number of votes cast for the candidates to be recounted. Only the ballots cast in the election and the summary statements certified by the election judges may be considered in the recount process.

"Original ballots from which duplicates are to be or were made" envelopes are not to be opened and original ballots that have been duplicated are not to be reviewed during the recount proceedings.

State recount official

Gary Poser, director of elections, Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State is hereby designated State Recount Official.

Designated recount officials

The State Recount Official will designate Deputy Recount Officials to perform a recount of all ballots cast for State Representative District 8B and State Senator District 20. See the attached schedule for the individuals designated as Deputy Recount Officials and for

the number of teams of Table Officials at each recount starting date, time and location.

Recount schedule

Deputy Recount Officials are directed to commence recounting the ballots at the dates and times in the attached schedule pursuant to the authority of the Deputy Recount Officials as described in the Recount Procedures.

The Deputy Recount Official may alter the schedule if a recount location becomes unavailable, or alter the number tables or daily starting times if, in the opinion of the Deputy Recount Official, the change is necessary to permit the recount to proceed promptly and efficiently. The change must not unnecessarily delay the progress of the overall recount. If a change is necessary the following applies:

a) A change to time, location, or number of tables must be clearly posted in the office of the Deputy Recount Official and at the originally scheduled location.

b) The Deputy Recount Official must immediately notify the State Recount Official of the change.

Recount process

The recount shall be open to the public.

The recount shall proceed according to Minnesota Statutes §204C.35 and Minnesota Rules Chapter 8235, and to the Recount Procedures attached to this Plan and adopted by the State Canvassing Board.

Deputy Recount Officials will print and use the recount summary statement (worksheet)as provided by the State Recount Official. A template of the recount summary statement is attached to this Plan.

All county and local election officials are hereby directed to provide the sealed election materials, including voted ballots and precinct summary statements from the 2012 state general election to the Deputy Recount Official designated for that jurisdiction.

The Deputy Recount Officials shall forward the completed recount summary statement, the incident log, and all challenged ballots to the State Recount Official. These materials shall be sent in a secure manner as directed by the State Recount Official. The State Recount Official shall secure the challenged ballots, compile the results and prepare the

recount report for the State Canvassing Board.

Meeting of the State Canvassing Board

The State Canvassing Board will meet to resolve the disposition of the challenged ballots and to canvass the results of the recounts on December 4, 2012 in Room 10 of the State Office Building in Saint Paul, Minnesota at 1:30 p.m.

The meeting will continue until the reports of the recounts authorized in this plan are completed and may recess from time to time.

Administrative recount procedures

The recount is an administrative recount held pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 204C.35 and Minnesota Rules, section 8235.

1. Recount locations are open to the public and the media and there will be a public viewing area in each recount location. Candidates may have additional representatives in the public viewing area of the room. Cell phones and video cameras may be used in the public viewing area, as long as their use is not disruptive.

2. The State Recount Official will designate a Deputy Recount Official for each recount location throughout the state. The Deputy Recount Official may designate one or more Assistant Deputy Recount Officials to preside whenever he or she needs to leave the room. The Deputy Recount Official or a designated Assistant Deputy Recount Official must be in the room at all times while ballots are being counted.

The Deputy Recount Official shall appoint as many Table Officials as he or she deems appropriate. Only the Deputy Recount Official, the Assistant Deputy Recount Official, and the appointed Table Officials may touch the ballots. The Deputy Recount Official shall determine and publicly announce the schedule for the recount, including the start and end times and all breaks within each day, and any changes in the schedule, location or number of tables. The candidates' Lead Representatives may make requests to the Deputy Recount Official for modifications to the schedule, location or number of tables.

3. All ballots cast on Election Day, and all accepted absentee ballots cast will be counted. The polling place ballots will be combined with the absentee ballots to be counted for each precinct, and all ballots for the precinct will be counted and reported together as one total.

4. All candidate representatives must present written credentials to the Deputy Recount Official and each candidate must designate one representative as his Lead Representative at each counting location.

5. Ballots, as defined in paragraph 3, will be sorted and counted by teams of at least two Table Officials, who shall be designated by the Deputy Recount Official. The sealed materials must be unsealed and resealed in public view. If not already sorted by precinct, absentee ballots will first be sorted by precinct. When a precinct is to be recounted, the polling place and absentee ballots will be counted and reported together as one total. An incident log shall be used to record any activity that the

Table Officials believe should be recorded.

6. Each candidate may have one representative who is authorized to challenge ballots at each counting table.

7. One of the Table Officials will sort the ballots into three piles, based upon the principles of voter intent outlined in Minnesota Statutes, section 204C.22: one pile for Candidate A, one for Candidate B, and one for all other ballots (those for other candidates, undervotes, overvotes, or otherwise disqualified ballots). The Table Official must make it clear into which pile he or she is placing the ballot and allow both candidates' representatives to view the ballot. Candidate representatives are not

allowed to touch or otherwise handle a ballot.

8. If during the sorting, a candidate's representative disagrees with the recount official's determination of for whom the ballot should be counted and whether there are any identifying marks on the ballot, he or she may challenge the decision of which of the three piles the Table Official has placed a ballot and must describe why the decision is being challenged. A challenge must be made in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, section 204C.22. Challenges may not be made for an entire precinct or

group of ballots. Challenges may not be automatic or frivolous. A challenge is frivolous if it is based upon an alleged identifying mark other than a signature or an identification number written anywhere on the ballot or a name written on the ballot completely outside of the space for the name of a write-in candidate. The absence of election judge initials on a ballot cannot be the basis of a challenge. The Table Official will reexamine the ballot to determine into which pile it should be placed. Challenged ballots shall be recorded on the recount summary statement as part of the

pile in which the Table Official intended to place the ballot, and shall also be recorded in a separate challenged ballot column. If either candidate's representative does not agree with the Table Officials' final determination, the ballot will be placed in one of two new piles of challenged ballots. One pile of challenged ballots will be for all ballots challenged by Candidate A's representative; the second pile of challenged ballots will be for all ballots challenged by Candidate B's representative.

9. When all ballots for the precinct have been sorted, each pile will then be counted by creating stacks of 25 ballots, which shall be cross-stacked into five distinct piles - one for Candidate A ballots, one for Candidate B ballots, one for all other non-challenged ballots, one for ballots challenged by the Candidate A Representative and one for ballots challenged by the Candidate B Representative. The Table Officials will each count one of the candidate's piles. After ballots have been sorted into piles, two

representatives per candidate may observe the ballots while they are being counted. A candidate or their representative may request to have a specific stack of 25 immediately counted a second time before the next stack of 25 has been counted. The candidate or their representative may not request to have an entire pile counted a second time. Vote counts will be announced and recorded in the candidate and "other" columns on the recount summary statement as they were determined by the recount official. Ballots will not be withheld from the candidate counts because they are being challenged.

10. After ballot counting for the precinct is completed, the Deputy Recount Official or designated Assistant Deputy Recount Officials may review the challenged ballots with the candidates or candidates' representatives. They may withdraw previously challenged ballots. If challenges are not withdrawn, the challenge counts are recorded on the recount summary statement. If the Deputy Recount Official determines it is

more expedient, the review and labeling of challenged ballots may be located at a

separate table dedicated for this purpose, allowing another precinct to be sorted at the

precinct table.

11. A label will be placed on white space on the back of the challenged ballots on which

the Deputy Recount Official or designated Assistant Deputy Recount Official must

note the precinct, the candidate and name of the representative who made the

challenge, and the reason for the challenge. The challenge reason format is "Not

{intent determined by sorter}, is {how challenger views intent}" (e.g. "Not Smith, is

undervote", "Not Jones, is identifying mark", "Not Smith, is Jones"). Each of the

challenges will be given a sequential number (1, 2, 3, etc., not Smith 1, 2, 3 and

Jones 1, 2, 3) within each county.

12. At the end of each day, the Deputy Recount Official or Assistant Deputy Recount

Official will make four copies of the recount summary statement, recount incident

logs, and both sides of each challenged ballot. One copy of each item will be retained

by the Deputy Recount Official, one will be forwarded to the Office of the Secretary

of State, and one copy will be provided to the Lead Representative for each candidate.

If the Table Officials must leave the room to make the copies, they will be

accompanied by each candidate's representative and the names of everyone who left

the room with the ballots will be noted on the incident log.

13. After copies have been made, the Deputy Recount Official or Assistant Deputy

Recount Official shall seal the original challenged ballots in one envelope, the Deputy

Recount Official's copies in another envelope and the copies for the Office of the

Secretary of State in a third envelope. At least two Table Officials will sign over the

seal of all 3 envelopes.

14. Challenged ballots must be stored securely during breaks in the counting process, at

night if the recount for the County or City has not finished, and after the counting is

complete. The sorting, counting, and review of ballots for a precinct must be

completed and all ballots must be securely stored before breaks for meals can be

taken or counting is finished for the day.

Preparation for the next Canvassing Board Meeting on December 4th:

1 Challenged ballots will be presented to the Canvassing Board for resolution of the

challenge on a county by county basis in an order to be determined by the State

Recount Official. The order of counties will be made public by noon December 3rd.

2. To facilitate the review of challenged ballots by the Board, the State Recount Official

may open the challenged ballot envelopes to remove those challenged ballots which

have been withdrawn by each of the two candidates or their representatives after the

precincts were recounted but prior to the next Board meeting.

The State Recount Official will arrange for this process to occur in an appropriate

room and at an appropriate time and shall inform the candidates and the public of the

time and location so that they may observe if they so desire. The State Recount

Official may designate any members of the staff of the Office of the Secretary of

State to assist in this task. At least two staff members must be present at all times

during this process.

The withdrawn challenged ballots shall be sealed into separately labeled envelopes

for return to the jurisdiction from which they were received. The remaining

challenged ballots shall be sealed into labeled envelopes and be kept secure for

review by the board.

3. A representative of the candidate challenging the ballot may present the basis of the

challenge to the Board. This presentation may be in written and/or oral form. The

opposing candidate's representative may respond to the challenge and state why he or

she believes the original determination of the Table Official should be upheld.

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Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
(320) 763-1236
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