Governor’s race headed to recount

Minnesota DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton (center) thanks those supporters who remained at 2:06 a.m. on Nov. 3, the day after statewide polls closed. At the time, Dayton led by about four percent over G.O.P. candidate Tom Emmer. (Photo by Caleb Williams/City College News)

In a grimly familiar scene for Minnesota politics, the governor’s race between apparent winner Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Tom Emmer is headed to a recount amid a wave of Republican takeovers nationally.

“I don’t think the people of Minnesota will stand for it, and they shouldn’t,” Dayton said, according to the Star Tribune.

With 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, Dayton leads Emmer by 8,856 votes. Minnesota election statutes require a mandatory recount when the margin between two candidates is less than one-half of a percentage point. The gubernatorial contest stands at a difference of 0.42% of the popular vote. Minnesota voters cast a total of 2,105,095 ballots in the race.

By the numbers

Dayton (D) 919,238 43.67%
Emmer (R) 910,382 43.25%
Horner (I) 251,504 11.95%
Third parties 23,971 1.13%
Total 2,105,095

In the 2008 U.S. Senate election, Norm Coleman had eked out a mere 725 votes over eventual winner Al Franken a day after election day. As the state canvassing board conducted that race’s recount, which featured the hand-counting of 2,887,646 ballots across the state, Coleman’s lead gradually dwindled until Franken overtook him in Dec. 2008.

When the canvassing board finally certified the election, it declared Franken the victor by a margin of 225 votes. Within days, Coleman’s campaign filed suit, and an election contest trial ensued, during which only Sen. Amy Klobuchar represented Minnesota in Washington, D.C. until the end of June 2009.

Due to uncertainty over how long the recount in the governor’s race will take, current Gov. Tim Pawlenty may have to stay past when his term would have normally ended. Pawlenty said he will remain in office if the election is not resolved by the date of the new governor’s swearing-in, which falls on Jan. 3, 2011.

In a statement, Pawlenty said that he is “fully committed and prepared to accomplish the swift and orderly transition to the next governor as soon as a final determination is made. As required by Article V of the Minnesota Constitution, I will continue to serve as governor until a new governor takes the oath.”

“The term of office for the governor … is four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified,” reads Article V of the Minnesota Constitution.

If Pawlenty ends up staying in the governor’s office into the month of January, Republicans temporarily will have an advantage, holding the governor’s mansion and controlling both houses of the state legislature. Democratic members of the state House and Senate were unsuccessful in their efforts to weather the Republican storm, losing 26 and 16 seats respectively.

The soonest the state can take action is Nov. 23, when the state canvassing board meets. The five members of the board will examine final vote tallies and determine if a recount is merited. The board, according to Minnesota law, consists of the secretary of state, two judges from the state supreme court and two judges from district courts whom are appointed by the secretary of state.

For Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who handily won re-election along with the rest of the DFL-affiliated constitutional officers, the recount will represent the second he has lead in two years.

“I expect this recount to reflect the same pride and the same calm behavior that our voters really represented yesterday,” Ritchie told the Star Tribune.

In a moment of levity, he called the prospect of another recount “fun.”