GOP sues over ballots in Minn. gov race

Tom Emmer and the Republican Party of Minnesota are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to delay a recount in Minnesota's contested race for governor.

Party officials say they're concerned that there are more votes than voters in some precincts, and the law requires some of those votes to be thrown out.

The process in question is known as reconciliation. Each election judge is required to review the list of people who voted in each precinct and reconcile it with the number of ballots that were cast on Election Night. State law requires the review to be done, but Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton said party lawyers believe the review didn't occur in each precinct across the state.

"Reconciliation is supposed to be done on Election Day when the voting is complete," Sutton said. "If it hasn't taken place, it has to occur before the recount can begin."

Sutton said he isn't sure that there have been more ballots cast than voters registered, but he wants to make sure it hasn't happened. If there are instances where there is an overvote, state law requires elections officials to remove ballots to make the numbers match.

Sutton couldn't say how many votes could be in question, but he later called it a "game changer" in a race where unofficial results show Democrat Mark Dayton with a nearly 9,000 vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer.

"With so many outstanding ballots potentially, we don't know," Sutton said. "That's why we're just asking for clarification. Show us that reconciliation is taking place. We have reasons to believe that it has not taken place. Show us that is has taken place and then we'll let the chips fall where they may."

The GOP filing with the Supreme Court quotes 11 election judges and poll watchers who say the election judges in precincts in Hennepin, Dakota and Ramsey Counties didn't match up the number of ballots with the number of voters registered. They are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to delay the state canvassing board from certifying the vote totals and ordering a recount. The Canvassing Board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

This isn't the first time that Sutton or Emmer have questioned the integrity of the elections process. The have alleged that there were constant voting machine malfunctions and illegal vouching for voters, but they have yet to show proof that such irregularities changed the outcome of the election.

Democrats argue that the Republican Party is trying to delay the outcome of the race.

"This is about damaging the ability of our next governor, Mark Dayton, to govern in this state," said Ken Martin, recount director for Dayton's campaign.

Martin said he hasn't seen any proof that the Republican Party's claims are true. He said Emmer and the Republican Party are aiming to delay the recount, which is scheduled to start on November 29. Martin said it should continue to move forward.

"If there's a way for this to happen without it interfering with the recount that's supposed to begin on the 29th, we're fine with that," Martin said. "But we're really concerned that this really about trying to delay this recount from taking place."

If the recount and impending legal proceedings drag on into 2011, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, would keep the governor's seat -- and for the first time, could pass laws drafted by a GOP-controlled Legislature.

The Hennepin County Elections Director declined comment when asked about the lawsuit. Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky said he's confident officials did everything required by law.

"Our judges did exactly what state law required them to do and that we verified the information that our judges provided to use from each polling place and that was the information we used to canvass on November 10th," Mansky said.

The latest effort may also be a signal that the Republican Party and the Emmer campaign need to either increase or shrink the pool of votes in order for Emmer to win. Many outside observers in both political parties say it's nearly impossible for Emmer to pick up enough votes in a hand recount to win the election.

If the Republican Party's request succeeds, the impact could go beyond the race for governor. Recounts are scheduled to occur in three legislative races where Republican candidates currently lead.