ST. PAUL - Just 14 of Minnesota's 87 counties continued to recount governor race ballots this afternoon as the Mark Dayton camp claimed that he continued to gain votes.
After saying the Democrat gained 177 votes on Monday, the first day of the statewide recount, today his recount team said he had a net gain of 205 votes over Republican Tom Emmer early in the afternoon. Dayton's margin remains less than 9,000 votes.
"This is a steep mountain for Tom Emmer to climb and it is getting more steep every day," said Ken Martin, who directs Dayton's recount team.
Monday night's unofficial secretary of state tally showed that Dayton had gained 24 votes on Emmer, but Democrats said their numbers were updated.
About half of the state's Nov. 2 ballots have been recounted. The state's largest counties could still be counting on Saturday.
Dayton heads to Washington, D.C. and the Democratic Governors' Association annual meeting on Wednesday.
"If, at the end of the recount, my election is certified and I am elected governor, I will be ready to lead on Jan. 3," Dayton said. "Attending the DGA's annual meeting provides a worthwhile opportunity to share ideas and learn from other governors what we can do in Minnesota to put people back to work and balance the state budget in a fair and responsible way."
Dayton's staff emphasized that no public money was used for the trip. Funds come from those raised to help his transition.
Dayton and to a lesser extent Emmer have operations in place to prepare them to become governor. Emmer says he is not emphasizing a transition team, but Dayton's team is housed in an east-St. Paul office, a floor below his recount team's headquarters.
On Monday, the first day of the recount, secretary of state figures showed that Dayton extended his lead over Emmer to 8,794 votes out of 2.1 million ballots cast. Dayton picked up 20 votes while Emmer lost four.
The State Canvassing Board begins a series of meetings on Dec. 8 to consider ballots that the campaigns have questioned. Board members plan to certify a winner on Dec. 14, although the loser could take the election to court.
A new governor is supposed to be sworn in on Jan. 3, replacing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty after his eight years in office.
Dayton's people say they have "possible vote discrepancies" in Dakota County. They say some votes were "showing up in the wrong precincts." In some cases, Dakota vote totals were lower than expected.
Portions of the state counted on Monday tend to be more Republican than those left, in the bigger cities, which vote more Democratic-Farmer-Laborite, Martin said. With more DFL votes, Martin predicted that Emmer's recount representatives would challenge more ballots.
While the main job of election officials is recounting each of the 2.1 million ballots, Emmer and Dayton representatives are watching as each ballot is examined, and sometimes challenge an election official's judgment about who the voter intended to pick.
Emmer's observers issued more than 90 percent of the challenges, most of which election officials determined to have no merit. When an official decides that, the ballots are counted but are separated so the State Canvassing Board can make a final decision if it wishes. Dayton's statistics showed 890 frivolous challenges statewide Monday, with 422 from Renville County and 323 from Hennepin.
Overall, Dayton's camp challenged 116 ballots on Monday while Emmer's people challenged 1,290.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.