On the third day of the Minnesota gubernatorial recount, DFLer Mark Dayton’s campaign said it may have eclipsed the 9,000 vote mark in his lead over Republican Tom Emmer. Also on Wednesday, Emmer’s team increased the number of frivolous ballot challenges to 2,141, far exceeding Dayton’s 39, according to numbers released by the Dayton campaign. The vast majority of frivolous challenges came in Hennepin County, where elections manager Rachel Smith asked to make changes to a counting process slowed by the volume of Emmer’s challenges. The Minnesota GOP attacked her for what they said was siding with Dayton.
Emmer’s frivolous challenges caused Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith to consider adding more hours to the daily recount time and to add more tables to the 25 already dedicated to the recount. She said she reconsidered when the GOP threatened to take her to court.
“We basically were told if we tried to add more tables we’d be taken into court,” Smith told the Pioneer Press.
GOP chair Tony Sutton went on the attack.
“After overseeing an unprecedented 400,000 vote error on election night, Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith today tried to change the rules in the middle of game to advance the interests of Mark Dayton,” Sutton said in a statement. “Smith has repeatedly inserted herself into the action by siding with the Dayton campaign on a host of issues, including her attempt today to arbitrarily change the recount schedule. Instead of expediting the recount, Smith’s machinations have only served to slow things down. As the advocates for Tom Emmer’s interests in this process, we will not be intimidated by Smith.”
Smith defended her actions in an interview with MinnPost.
“I don’t work for either party, I work for the citizens of Hennepin County,” she said. “I am trying to do the best job I can to get through a half-million ballots in the allotted time, and do it as fairly and expeditiously as I can.”
The recount is already 84 percent complete, according to the Secretary of State. The Dayton campaign says it may have a vote margin of more than 9,000 for the first time and released numbers showing a 8,998 lead. With a large number of challenges still in the system, that number could change.
However, the number of legitimately challenged ballots is much smaller than Dayton’s lead – just over 700 so far.