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County auditor concerned about security of ballots

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WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman didn't realize Tuesday that he is on Al Franken's list of potential witnesses in the Senate recount trial.

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Thursday he gave a deposition to the Franken campaign. "I thought that might've taken care of it," said Modderman. He isn't looking forward to participating in another step in the recount process.

Besides the possibility of testifying in court, Modderman is waiting for directions for how to bundle up 12,000 rejected absentee ballots to send to a three-judge panel hearing Norm Coleman's court challenge to Franken's apparent win.

The judges told Coleman this week they will not accept copies of the rejected absentee ballot envelopes and that he must subpoena all 87 counties for the originals.

That has Modderman worried.

He's been keeping all the ballots from the November election under a double lock in the county office building. To get into the locked room, a careful procedure is followed that requires two people, signatures and keys.

"And now we're going to ship this information via whatever means? That is at odds with the prior security that we were required to have," Modderman said.

There were 16 rejected ballots in Kandiyohi County that Modderman will need to send to the court.

"You're always concerned once you lose them out of your security," Modderman said.

He is waiting to hear from the state about how to deliver the ballots and is wondering if a currier will be sent to collect them from counties.

He does not envy the judges' task of looking at all 12,000 ballots to decide if they were correctly rejected or not.

Modderman finds that step in the process ironic. "It's already been done," he said.

In a process involving local election judges -- a process that was observed by campaign officials, the public and the media, every absentee ballot that was rejected on election night was examined again to determine if the rejection was appropriate or not.

In Kandiyohi County, local election judges determined that all 16 ballots had been appropriately rejected under state law. For example, signatures did not match or a required registration card was not included.

If the court decides differently and accepts those ballots, Modderman said that could affect the county's ability to obtain election judges in the future. Election judges could feel that, even though they make decisions based on the law, someone else can overturn their decisions.

"That's what bothers me," Modderman said. "How the election judges will respond to it next year."

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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