GOP chair blasts Hennepin Co. elections chief

State Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton sharply criticized Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith today. Here’s what he said:

“After overseeing an unprecedented 400,000 vote error on election night, Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith today tried to change the rules in the middle of game to advance the interests of Mark Dayton. Instead of serving as a neutral referee like Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky, Smith has repeatedly inserted herself into the action by siding with the Dayton campaign on a host of issues, including her attempt today to arbitrarily change the recount schedule. Smith also unsuccessfully tried to change the rules by expanding the number of tables and changing the ‘sign in’ rules for challenged ballots to discourage Emmer observers from lodging challenges. Smith’s maneuvering sends a chilling signal to all Minnesotans who believe in fair play for all sides. Instead of expediting the recount, Smith’s machinations have only served to slow things down. As the advocates for Tom Emmer’s interests in this process, we will not be intimidated by Smith.”

Smith has been saying it’s the Emmer side that has been slowing down the recount by frivolously objecting to ballots that are clearly votes for Dayton.

The Dayton campaign put out its estimate of what’s happening.

In Minneapolis City (about 6% of the state vote) the Emmer campaign has 1,256 frivolous challenges so far, or 59% of their statewide frivolous challenges. Overall, the rate of frivolous challenges continues to be a bit higher, but solely due to challenges in selected Minneapolis precincts. Precinct 6-2 alone had 81 total challenges and several other precincts have had 30 or more challenges.

UPDATE: Rachel Smith said this when asked about Sutton’s statement:

“I don’t work for either one of the parties. I’m here for the citizens of Hennepin County and we’re trying to do a big job as fairly and expeditiously as we can to meet the guidelines that we were given. ”

  • anna

    Just out of curiosity, why do the candidate reps think they get have veto power over this recount schedule? Mr Trimble is so transparent in his slow-it-down strategy.

  • Ralph Crammedin

    @anna, stalling the recount, in the lame hope of keeping Mark Dayton out of office long enough to ram through a redistricting map that keeps Republicans in power for 10 years, is only half the GOP plan. The more certain, more malignant part of the Republican scheme is to damage the Minnesota election process as much as possible.

    The garbage that pours out, whenever Tony and Tony open their slanderous mouths, is intended to damage the reputation of every election official in the State, to instill fear and doubt about the electoral process, and to give cynical and rapacious bloggers, letter writers and Republican activists the ability to scream voter fraud and corrupt and stolen elections at every opportunity.

    Republicans hate the idea of voter turnout, and will stop at nothing to keep voters away from the polls. The current GOP nonsense has a very clear long-term purpose, to poison Minnesota elections in as many minds as possible and to win future elections by discouraging and denying, to as many as possible, the Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

  • MNReader

    Is there a threshold where the GOP tactics cross over to illegal harassment, intimidation or obstruction? At what point can campaign representatives and challengers be forcibly removed for interfering with a legitimate process?

  • John K

    If you read the articles about the recount in Ramsey County, you will see that there is a stark difference between Rachel Smith in Hennepin County and her counterpart in Ramsey County.

    The campaign people and their goals are the same in both counties. The Dayton people and the Emmer people have the same goals. So what makes one county a problem and the other one smooth sailing? Well the only difference I can see is the Election Manager.

    This has little to do about the campaigns as it has to do with the county Election Managers.

  • MNReader

    Might not be too off base that an intentional strategy by the Emmer campaign would be to target Hennepin County, the state’s most populous, and create as much chaos and disruption as possible, and not other counties, to lay a foundation later for legal challenges. That way they can perhaps try to convince the courts that there were widespread problems, or problems that stood out and contrasted Hennepin County (along with the election night counting glitch) against the rest of the state — even if there really were no such aberrations. I’ll give all the election managers the benefit of the doubt, and figure they’re just trying to get their assigned task done as quickly and accurately as possible, given the constraints they’ve been given and the huge volume of data they have to manage — and each dealing with their own, different obstacles.

    While the two campaigns have the same end goals — the governor’s office — their milestone goals along the way are very different. The challenge disparity is proof of that.

  • Alex B.

    @JohnK: If the only difference you can see is the Election Manager, then you’re closing at least one eye. 59% of Emmer’s frivolous challenges are in the City of Minneapolis. Last I checked, Minneapolis is in Hennepin County, not Ramsey. If Emmer was wasting as much of Ramsey County’s time as Hennepin County’s, the Election Managers would behave more similarly.

  • Ralph Crammedin

    @JohnK, Hennepin County recount workers report Emmer lawyers openly dressing down Republican observers for not meeting their Challenge Quotas. Perhaps Ramsey County is still civil because the Emmer lawyers haven’t got over there yet to stir things up.

  • Lily

    Rachel Smith is doing a great job of managing this circus, I mean recount.

    Hennepin County is lucky to have her at the helm.