Minnesota passed a new law this year that requires all counties to conduct a post-election audit of 2-4 randomly picked precincts. The paper ballot totals for Minnesota Governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress will be manually counted and compared to the results of the optical scan machines. If there is more than a 0.5 percent difference, an automatic recount of the entire county will be called.
The non-partisan groups Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota and the League of Women Voters Minnesota have requested volunteers to observe these audits. I will be observing Dakota County on Wednesday morning and Goodhue County on Thursday morning. Should be interesting…DK
UPDATE: The Dakota County review went smoothly and all four precincts matched the machine count exactly. I picked the largest one to observe, Burnsville Precinct 2, which had about 1200 ballots and took a little more than two hours to complete. Goodhue County up next…DK
UPDATE 2: My experience in Goodhue County had the same end result, but the process was a little different. Goodhue has a new election official, Carolynn Holsten (sp?), who said she started in October. Chairs had been set out for observers about ten feet away from the two counting tables and there were two other observers from Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota when I arrived.
The review started and at one point I got up and walked to a table to get the count totals and observe the ballots. The election official asked me to stay in my seat, as they has been provided for us. I told her I need to be able to see the ballots and that I could be within three feet, as long as I didn’t touch the ballots or interfere with the people counting. I didn’t have anything with me that had that spelled out, so I just remained in my chair for most of the review. I did raise my hand and ask to review one ballot that was recorded as defective (it was an over count), but overall I really wasn’t close enough to see what was marked on any of the other ballots.
This situation made my uncomfortable, especially after Dakota County officials the previous day had made it a point several times during the review to make sure I could see each ballot clearly. The people doing the review in Goodhue County also had the machine totals in front them and seemed to be looking at those to see how many they needed in each stack versus totaling, then comparing.
I called Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota after the review and discussed my concerns with Director Mark Halvorson. He said Goodhue was one of the counties they had not been able to contact before the review, likely due to the recent turnover of county personnel. He also said I could have called him during the review and he would have spoke directly with the official right away. While the end result of this audit had the desired outcome, we both agreed that the new election review law could use some better guidelines for county election officials and observers in the future…DK
Originally published by DK on November 14, 2006 at 12:16 am