Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is on MPR’s Midday this morning and has provided more insight into what’s going on out at the counties, as numbers change in dribs and drabs. He says they’re not looking at the ballots themselves, they’re looking at ballot tally sheets for errors. It won’t be until there’s actually a recount when people look at already-counted ballots.
Q: Is there any chance ballots can be tampered with?
A: I have extremely high confidence in the 87 county officials. The ballots are under control of very carefully aware and dedicated local election officials. Could someone come in with dynamite and blow up the place? That happened in Minnesota’s first gubernatorial race, but they’re under very tight protection now.
Q: What’s the likelihood of overturning the result?
A: You do a recount not knowing what the result will be. Anyone who says a recount never ends up overturning a result, aren’t respecting the recount process. To predict the outcome is to dismiss the recount process.
Q: Have absentee ballots been counted?
A: There’s been a persistent rumor that absentee ballots are not counted until later. Absentee ballots must be received on or before Election Day. If it comes one day late, it’s not counted. Ballots are received at the county courthouse and then delivered to the precinct where they belong, they’re marked on the roster to be sure they haven’t already voted, they are run through the machine by the end of the day.
Q: I read the average cost per ballot is 3 cents. How is that counted? What would be the scenario if either candidate waived the recount, and then the result changes?
A: Elections are not competitions between two candidates; we think of them as taking the poll of the citizens and they determine the outcome of elections. Suggesting we not have a recount is like the Supreme Court ending the recount in Florida. We are better off than Georgia, which instead of a recount, we’d have to have another election.
The 3-cents a ballot was negotiated with the counties. Instead of $4 or $5 million election, this will cost us $80-90,000.
Q: Why is Franken getting all the recent votes?
A: If you’re implying that county auditors are dishonest, it flies in the face of county officials. Norm Coleman’s numbers went up today. It seems to be part of a partisan strategy to create a cloud around something that is very common in Minnesota. Election workers are “amazing” and to imply a transposition of a number was dishonest, is not my experience.
Q: Will lawsuits shorten recount process?
A:They can take it to court after the recount. I don’t have any kind of insight into what the parties are trying to promote. I’m assuming what the party attorneys will try to do is create a partisan advantage to themselves in hopes of getting a judge who will be more partisan. But I don’t have an inside look into those party strategies. We stay out of the partisan process.
Q: is it possible the court can make the recount irrelevant?
Q: How would a court-ordered recount be done?
A: I have no idea what a court-ordered recount would be done. There’s a lot of sensitivity to judges stepping in an overturning an election. Our job is determining what is the will of the people. This battling between candidates diminishes the role of the citizens.
Q: Are there outside attorneys showing up?
A: I hear they’re still trying to get seats on the airplanes. But I’ve heard there will be outside gunslingers. But we stay out of that.
Q: In the event of a perfect tie, is it possible to do a re-vote between just the two parties?
A: In state law, there’s a procedure established, but I believe there is a coin toss. We don’t have provisions for re-elections.
Q: Why do you think it’ll take months less to recount the ballots compared to the 1962 gubernatorial election, and how accurate are the machines that count the ballots?
A: (It was 139 days in 1962). We just completed a statewide recount of 400,000 ballots. For some towns it took an hour, in some cities it took a day and a half. This is more ballots so it’ll take 15-16 days based on that. We will start on November 19 and we’ll have the whole process completed within a month. We did it in three days in our recent example so we feel we have a good handle on how long it will take.
The only differences we’ve found is where ovals weren’t marked correctly.A few votes in every thousand are marked that way. The machines are very accurate. But citizens voting mark them in ways that can only be determined by physically looking at them.
(Update: Coleman lead just increased to 239)
Q: Do the votes that are coming in now include mis-marked ballots?
A: No. The preliminary numbers are only looking at the results indicated by the machine totals.
Q: Why were voters in Woodbury sent to get new drivers’ licenses on Tuesday?
A: (Eichten rephrases to general question on irregularities) If parties go to court, then the irregularities would be part of the process. In Woodbury, the election judge was working in a proper manner in the sense the county’s kept driver’s license bureaus open late. The laws are strict. You have to have these documents. So they could go over and get an ID card or update their driver’s license and then go back and vote. It breaks the heart of most elected officials when someone who is clearly eligible, doesn’t have that last piece of paper for proof. It’s like the ballot from Baghdad that shows up on Wednesday. It’s one day late and it doesn’t count.
Q: Those who were properly registered, do not have to show ID.
Q: If one candidate wins the first election, and another wins the recount, why not have a third count?
A: No one wins the first count. It’s an automatic recount.
Q: Who names the Canvassing Board
A: We’ve asked the chief justice to name two people, and we’ve asked the chief judge in Ramsey County to name two people. I do not believe the judges have a partisan view.
Q: You’re a DFLer. Can Republicans feel they’ll get a fair shake from you?
A: I was elected as a Democrat but I took an oath of office to uphold the constitution of the state and the nation. Keep in mind, elections are run at the county level. It’s about trust in this system of local election officials from the bottom to the top.
Q: (A clerk from a township) The voting machines are accurate by the Xs and checkmarks should not have gone into the machines because the machine kicks it back out and we have to look at it and say to the voter, ‘You can’t do it that way’ and they have to remake their ballot. If the machine is working correctly, there would be no reason why the ballot would’ve gotten into the machine at all.
A: It’s probably because the person hits “accept my ballot anyhow.” It happens about 2 per thousand that they get through. The machine might’ve counted it as a non-vote.
Q: Shouldn’t you know how many bad ballots there are by the end of the day at an election?
A: Yes, but if you didn’t mark your box correctly, it would indicate a non-vote on that race. But the number of ballots handed out and the number returned would balance out.
Q: Will we have a U.S. senator seated in Washington on January 20th.
A: I’ll got out on a limb and say ‘yes.’
Here’s the second half of Secretary Ritchie’s appearance on Midday.
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