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Recount process finished in Kandiyohi County

Sam Holmgren, left, a representative for Mark Dayton, watches Monday as Pam Sigafoos, an election judge, counts ballots for Tom Emmer at the Kandiyohi County Office Building in Willmar. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange1 / 2
Election judges sort and hand count ballots under a watchful eye.2 / 2

WILLMAR -- After seven hours of hand counting more than 11,000 ballots Monday in Kandiyohi County there were a handful of challenged ballots and minor changes made in the vote totals.

At the end of process, Tom Emmer gained three votes and Mark Dayton lost five votes.

Considering the number of votes that were counted, Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman said the change in the vote totals was not surprising and fell within the expectations issued by the state.

There were three "legitimate" challenges to ballots that will be sent to the state canvassing board. Two challenges were filed by Emmer representatives and one challenge was made by the Dayton camp.

There were also three challenges to ballots that Modderman determined were "frivolous." Two of those frivolous challenges included stray ink dots on ballots. The dots were not inside any oval that could lead to confusion about the voter's intentions.

Those ballots were counted in the totals for the candidates but were set aside in a separate envelope for frivolous challenges.

Modderman said even the legitimate challenges clearly showed the voter intent. One ballot, for example, had the oval filled in as well as an "X" by the same candidate's name. He said it's frustrating not having the power to take action on some challenged ballots and said it'll be up to the canvassing board to make the final determination on whether the votes will be counted or not.

Overall, the process went quickly. Paid election judges, who sat at three separate tables with representatives for the candidates at their sides, sorted the ballots into separate piles for each candidate.

A different set of judges then counted the ballots for each candidate as party representatives watched.

Some observers watched each ballot with eagle eyes. Others stifled yawns as the afternoon drug on.

For most of the day there were four or five representatives for Emmer serving as official observers during the county recount.

Dayton's camp, however, had 12 to 14 observers.

There were different personalities and styles at each table. One judge pointed to each candidate's name, said the name out loud and put the ballot in the appropriate pile.

Other judges simply looked at the ballot and put it in the correct pile.

With a party representative sitting at their elbows watching the process, there was no chance for a ballot to be put in the wrong pile no matter what method was used.

While one table was extremely serious and quiet in performing the tasks, the judges and observers at another table laughed and chatted about how well voters filled in the ovals this year compared to two years ago when they were hand counting ballots in the Senate race.

The speed of the process surprised Modderman who feared the recount of ballots wouldn't get done Monday. Willmar city officials counted the ballots cast in the city limits and Modderman was in charge of recounting the rest of the ballots cast in the county.

Modderman thanked the election judges and official observers for getting the job done in one day.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750