Recount: The view from Chisago County

Over the last week I’ve been checking in with a few county election officials in advance of the recount next week in the race for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota. Today, I talked to Dennis Freed of Chisago County’s auditor for the past 32 years who reports he’s never seen anything like what’s happened since Tuesday’s near-deadlocked vote.

Freed is spending the day putting together the plan for the recount, which starts a week from Wednesday. Chisago County has 29,410 ballots to go through and he figures two teams of two people can finish their part in two or three days.

The ballots? They’re in his office, next to him. “We’re in the process of putting in electronic locks and we’ll have a camera that will record things 24/7,” Freed said.

Like his counterparts in other counties, Freed has a visitor — a representative from the Norm Coleman campaign shows up each day to keep an eye on the ballots. Most of the time the observer sits in the lobby but “it depends on how pushy they are,” he said.

Neither the Coleman nor Franken camps made any gains when Chisago County helds its canvassing session last Thursday. “We found one judge who was running unopposed who picked up three more votes, but that’s about it,” according to Freed.

This Wednesday, Chisago County will examine the ballots in two precincts as part of the Post Election Review in Minnesota, in which two several precincts in each county are selected.

In the meantime, the auditor’s office has other things it normally turns to at this time of the year — assessments and Truth in Taxation statements etc. “How is that getting done?” I asked. “It’s not,” Freed replied. “We don’t have the luxuries of metro-area counties.”

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