Political Notes: Numbers may not add up for EmmerST. PAUL — Tom Emmer’s legal team is looking for every way to find votes for him in the Minnesota governor’s race, but the main argument presented so far does not add up, a law professor and legal expert says.
By: Don Davis, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — Tom Emmer’s legal team is looking for every way to find votes for him in the Minnesota governor’s race, but the main argument presented so far does not add up, a law professor and legal expert says.
David Schultz of Hamline University said that the Emmer strategy to randomly remove ballots because more people voted than signed in on election day would require 87,700 ballots to be removed to help the Republican’s campaign — and removing ballots would be unconstitutional.
Schultz went through a lengthy mathematical computation leading to his conclusion, but in the end it was another argument that may carry more weight.
The state Supreme Court and State Canvassing Board rejected Emmer’s request that elections officials to follow a state law that requires precinct election judges to count the number of voter signatures at the end of election day and compare it to the number of votes cast. If more votes were cast than there were voters, state law requires ballots to be randomly removed from the count until the vote and voter numbers are equal.
Schultz says that violates the U.S. Constitution.
“If voting is a fundamental right protected by the 1st and 14th amendments (and that is true), subjecting voters to random denial of having their ballot counted because of election official counting errors or mis- or maladministration is clearly a denial of a right to vote,” Schultz wrote in his blog. “I think the current state law is unconstitutional.”
Emmer’s attorney, former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, was asked in Tuesday’s State Canvassing Board meeting if Emmer could overcome Democrat Mark Dayton’s 8,770-vote lead. Magnuson did not directly answer it.
Since the practice is not to count actual signatures, Magnuson said that voter numbers may be inaccurate. “To do it by an approximate method is wrong.”
Some observers say that part of Emmer’s legal strategy is laying the groundwork for an eventual court case challenging the election. Saying that election officials broke state law is one such move.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Cabinet may be full of rookie commissioners when he leaves office Jan. 3, or whenever a governor’s race recount lets him move on.
Two of the latest departures are Ward Einess of the Revenue Department and Dan McElroy of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Earlier, Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget said he would leave before Pawlenty’s term is finished.
Also, Steve Sviggum of the Labor and Industry Department, a former House speaker, is taking over Hanson’s old job for the next month or so, leaving his deputy commissioner in charge at labor and industry.
“I try to be a good team player,” Sviggum told the Red Wing Republican-Eagle. “It seemed like the right thing to do for the team.”
A few weeks ago, Sviggum said that he would consider taking a job in Pawlenty’s expected presidential campaign, or he might consider running for another office.
The margin between governor candidates Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer has been a moving target, and will remain so.
At one point the day after the election, Dayton led by 8,856 votes. Going into the recount on Monday, he leads by 8,770.
The past changes are attributed to local election officials reviewing their returns and sending adjustments to the secretary of state’s office.
Vote changes will continue during the recount.
While the secretary of state’s office likely will set the clock back to zero, reporting each night what was counted that day, news organizations probably will adjust the pre-recount numbers to reflect changes made by the recount. Reporters feel the latter presents a more accurate indication of where the vote is.
In their effort to find Tom Emmer votes in the Minnesota governor’s race, the Republican’s attorneys asked the State Canvassing Board to change some rules.
That would require more work and more money, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
“Sometimes following the law is inconvenient and expensive,” replied Emmer attorney Eric Magnuson.
Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.