Pawlenty vows to work with both parties during transition, possible recount

Hennepin County poll error
This picture shows a Hennepin County computer where the errant report of poll returns was created. It shows the wrong button is selected; the top selection should have been pushed. As a result, the county temporarily reported inflated numbers during Election Night poll returns.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vowed to assist both DFLer Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer in planning for the gubernatorial transition during a press conference held Thursday.

Neither candidate has conceded the election. Emmer trails Dayton by nearly 9,000 votes, according to unofficial election results from the Secretary of State's office. The tight margin will apparently trigger a mandatory recount, which would likely begin later this month.

Dayton said Wednesday that he will wait for election officials to tally and certify the results before declaring victory in the state's governor's race.

Pawlenty said he hopes to meet with Emmer and Dayton separately early next week to discuss the transition. The Republican governor's staff will also be meeting with each candidate's staff to discuss the state's budget and other matters.

The governor said he does not anticipate any involvement with the recount process, which he characterized as a legal matter.

"It's not my place to interject into this ... unless there's some mischief revealed or some politicking going on around it," he said.

However, Pawlenty did mention concerns about an initial error in the Hennepin County vote tallies, and he referenced allegations that several felons may have broken the law by voting in the Nov. 2 election.

Hennepin County election officials said an error resulted in an incorrect number of vote tallies being reported for several hours Tuesday evening, but the county's election director said they fixed the problem by the end of the night. The county initially reported that nearly 900,000 people had voted, but later cut that number roughly in half.

Pawlenty said it remains unclear "what's underneath that," and said that the error "could change everything." However, he stressed that it's too soon to know whether the error will play a role in the recount.

State GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said Wednesday that party officials will "overturn every stone" looking for votes. He said that will include looking into possibilities ranging from fraud to incompetence.

Pawlenty said he had not spoken to Sutton about his concerns. When asked specifically about the allegations of fraud, Pawlenty said, "I don't know what he had in mind there."

He added, "Election integrity is really important and if there are concerns or allegations, people should get them on the table."

It would be the second time in two years that a statewide recount has put Minnesota's election process under a microscope. In 2008, a recount and subsequent court challenge in the U.S. Senate race took eight months to resolve.

This time, the uncertainty has the potential to delay work at the state Legislature, where lawmakers must approve the next two-year state budget.

The state's constitution requires that a governor remain in office until the new governor can take office. Pawlenty said he will fulfill that responsibility, but plans to have a limited role.

"In the event that it goes beyond January 3, and again I hope it does not, then I will address matters as they arise and as they need to be addressed," Pawlenty said.

He added, "If an emergency were to take place, for example, and I needed to call up the National Guard, I would certainly do that."

Pawlenty encouraged patience as the recount process begins.

"It will reveal the truth, I believe, one way or another," he said. "It's unfortunate that this delay is occurring, but it's more important that people have faith ... in the outcome."

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