Leading up to recount, GOP files suit against two counties

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The Republican Party of Minnesota and Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign filed a civil suit against Pine and St. Louis counties on Friday saying the two have been too slow in getting requested documents related to the election. 

But county officials and the recount team for Democrat Mark Dayton said the requests and timeline made by the Emmer campaign are burdensome and unreasonable. At the same time, the Dayton campaign is pressuring his Republican rival to forgo the recount following few changes in the vote total during the canvassing process.

Emmer and the GOP asked the counties on Nov. 4 to “immediately” turn over voting machine tapes, summary statements, ballot security information, revisions to reported election night results, photocopies of all accepted and rejected absentee ballot information, names and addresses of everyone who applied for an absentee ballot, voter registration information, names of election judges, election night incident reports, and all information provided to the Dayton campaign.

St. Louis County said it could not complete the request within 14 days and Pin County did not respond to the Emmer campaign, according to documents filed with the court.

“The unacceptable foot dragging of St. Louis and Pine Counties cannot persist,” said GOP chair Tony Sutton. “The Emmer for Governor campaign and the Republican Party of Minnesota should not have to go to court to get counties to respond to data practices requests in a timely manner. We will continue to pursue any counties that do not promptly meet their legal obligations during this process. Minnesotans deserve better.”

But, Dayton’s lawyers and at least one county elections official say that Emmer’s requests are burdensome and that the counties have election work they must complete before they can fill Emmer’s requests.

“It’s clear that the Emmer campaign has embarked on one of the biggest legal fishing expeditions in Minnesota history,” Dayton recount attorney David Lillihaug told reporters on Friday. “And that’s going cost the counties a tremendous amount of money.”

“At a time when they are preparing for a recounts and get the rosters in order, the Emmer team has put an enormous burden” on them, he added.

The Star Tribune notes that counties cannot, by law, send rosters or registration information until everything has been reported.

“No polling place roster may be inspected until the voting history for that precinct has been posted. No voter registration application may be inspected until the information on it has been entered into the statewide registration system,” state statute says.

There’s also the matter of redacting voters’ private information.

“Many of the documents they are asking for have some sort of private information on them,” Washington County elections director Kevin Corbid said on Wednesday at a panel discussion at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. “It’s not as simple as just shoving 13,000 documents through our copier.”

Corbid also added that small counties only have a handful of employees and as counties prepare for truth in taxation and other county functions at the end of the year, a massive document request can easily overwhelm already busy administrators.

The 8,700 vote margin that Dayton has over Emmer has been seen as insurmountable by experts and especially the Dayton campaign.

Dayton’s camp is urging Tom Emmer to waive the mandatory recount.

“It will be mathematically impossible for Tom Emmer to overturn these results, barring some unforeseen problem which we haven’t seen in this canvassing process,” said Ken Martin of the Dayton recount team. “We’re fairly certain this will not happen. In fact we’re hearing from county officials as well as others that this canvass has gone amazingly smooth. Now it is fairly likely that an automatic recount will be triggered. However, it should be noted that Representative Emmer still can decline this recount.”

Emmer’s lawyers have been adamant that the will proceed with the recount which they are legally entitled to.