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Beltrami County clears election review

Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Matt Havumaki of the Citizens for Election Integrity, left, and Jeff Volk, financial tech with Beltrami County, watches as Leala Roth counts ballots during a Post Election Review Tuesday morning.

Beltrami County's vote totals in two randomly selected precincts matched up with Election Day totals, a post-election review showed Tuesday.

"They came out 100 percent -- every manual tally that we did came out the same as the machine," said Beltrami County Auditor-Treasurer Kay Mack.

It was a preview of a larger recount expected to start Nov. 29 statewide for the governor's race, should the State Canvassing Board determine that the vote totals between Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer be 0.5 percent or less, dictating an automatic recount.

And if the numbers stand, it's a futile recount, Mack said.

The Beltrami County Canvassing Board in a meeting last week certified the county's results unchanged from tallies reported election night, Mack said.

Tuesday's post-election review had staff hand count ballots for the Congressional District and the governor's race in Quiring and Frohn townships, with the hand tally exactly matching the machine count a week earlier.

"What gives you faith in the process is that when the people are stacking and counting these ballots, I made sure that they did not have in front of them the results that they were supposed to get," Mack said of the post-election review.

In Frohn Township, 8th District tallies had 36 for Timothy Olson, 313 for Chip Cravaack, 285 for James Oberstar and eight for Richard (George) Burton plus one write-in and 10 left blank. Governor's balloting had 55 for Tom Horner, 288 for Tom Emmer, 300 for Mark Dayton, four for Farheen Hakeem, two for Linda Eng, two for Chris Wright, two for Ken Pentel, plus one write-in and four left blank.

Quiring Township, in the 7th District, had three votes for Glen Menze, 15 for Lee Byberg, 13 for Collin Peterson and one for Gene Wendorf. Governor's balloting had five for Tom Horner, 16 for Tom Emmer and 12 for Mark Dayton

Mack said that state law called for the random selection, done at the Canvassing Board meeting, of two of the county's 61 precincts for the hand count, of which one had to be a precinct of fewer than 150 voters.

Observing the count was former Rep. Doug Fuller, R-Bemidji, for the Republicans, Heather Avenson for the Democrats and Matt Havamaki for Citizens for Election Integrity, a non-partisan organization.

Havamaki filled out an audit form for CEI, "so that it gets submitted to the state organization," Mack said. "Their mission is to make sure that elections are transparent and integrity is part of their name. I like it when they're actually here."

Fuller, whose party is paying particular attention to vote tallies because their candidate, Emmer, is about 8,800 votes behind, said the process went well for Beltrami.

"Kay runs a tight ship," he said.

The next step is up to the State Canvassing Board which meets Nov. 23 to certify the election. With an automatic recount triggered with a 0.5 percent difference between Democrat Dayton and Emmer and the votes cast, the margin now stands at 0.41 percent.

Mack anticipates a Nov. 29 start statewide for a recount. Based on the 2008 Coleman/Franken recount, Mack anticipates using five, five-person teams -- three staff or volunteers and two party observers on each team -- to do the recount which should take one day.

Beltrami's totals show Dayton with 7,526 votes and Emmer with 6,531 votes.

"It appears an automatic recount will be directed, but the party who is not declared the winner will have the opportunity to decline a recount." Mack said. "Quite honestly, there is absolutely no way that they'll make up enough difference."

The difference in the Coleman/Franken recount was one-hundredth of 1 percent, she said, far different than 8,800 votes and 0.41 percent. "The other thing is that this year there are only 3,000 rejected absentee ballots statewide. It was a huge number in 2008.

"They won't gain ground on the absentees, they won't gain ground on a large turnout because it was actually a smaller turnout," she added. "The likelihood is minuscule."

Recounts are extremely expensive, Mack said, with the state only reimbursing the county 3 cents a ballot and costs far exceeding that.

"The citizens are paying for that, and I'm not going to be shy about saying that" she said. "If they want a recount with no likelihood that it is going to change the difference, they are asking citizens to pay for it -- an exercise."

Mack said Election Day turnout was 65 percent, slightly higher than the 62 percent statewide. Compared to 2008 and the recount that year, this year's recount will involve 6,126 fewer votes to count.

"This was a smooth election, it went so well," she said. "I did not hear of problems at the polls."

Mack said she plans on going through incident reports from the precincts, something that the Republican Party has already requested copies. "Judges usually let us know if there are issues going on, and it really was a smooth day."