MNrecount Liveblog: State Canvassing Board certifies election results

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The clock just struck one. Room 10 in the State Office Building in St. Paul is maybe 3/4 full, mainly with media eminences, but some others well. Franken attorney David Lillehaug is in the peanut gallery, since out-of-town ringer Marc Elias is at the legal reins for this meeting.

1:05 p.m.: All rise as the five members arrive. That clicking you here is not photographers’ shutters but the seat bottoms flipping up as the audience stands up.

1:10 p.m. State staffer Gary Poser describes the election results to the board members: Vote totals for all voters, absentee ballots, the presidential race, the referendum on arts and outdoors funding, and so on. Everything but what everyone’s here for so far.

1:15 p.m.: Poser now at the Senate results: Coleman with 1211565, Franken with 1211359. The 206-vote difference that we’ve grown used to.

1:20 p.m.: Poser continues with the post election equipment review: At least two precincts in each county (more precincts in more populous counties) hold a manual recount to make sure the machine count is within one half of one percent of the manual count. All counties passed, and with revisions the report leaves a 215-vote spread between Coleman and Franken following these tests.

1:25 p.m.: Secretary of State Mark Ritchie leads the other board members in selecting precincts randomly (drawing out of a bag) that will undergo a post-election review. The first two were in Cottage Grove, and the rest are: Zumbrota, Carver County, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, Brooklyn Park, Plymouth, St. Paul (two), S. St. Paul (two), Roseville, Minneapolis (four), Baytown Twp., Columbus, Fair Haven Twp., Buffalo, Lake of the Woods Cty., Browerville (?), Greenwald, Sioux Agency, Bradford Twp., Thorpe Twp., Embarass Twp., Pine County. Note: Embarass is what they’re trying to avoid.

1:30 p.m.: The board is taking up the recount plan for the U.S. Senate and three other races in Minnesota that were close enough to trigger mandatory recounts.

1:35 p.m.: No one signed up on the sign up sheet that I saw but the campaigns are going to speak to the board on the recount plan now, Ritchie says.

1:40 p.m.: Scratch what I said about Lillehaug: He’s making the Franken campaign statement. He’s pleading for the board to review improperly rejected absentee ballots. The board is here to count votes cast, he says, not rubber-stamp vote totals that county officials accepted. He cites equal protection language from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush vs. Gore.

1:45 p.m.: Franken requests: Count improperly rejected ballots. It won’t delay the hand count. Confirm that each county publicly canvassed each precinct, emphasis on “publicly.” Board Member G. Barry Anderson asks: Would you consider a delayed decision? Lillehaug: ASAP.

1:50 p.m.: Fritz Knaak and Tony Trimble, lawyers for the Coleman campaign speak next. Knack questions Lillehaug’s citations of the 1962 Minnesota governor’s race recount, and a school board case: neither was decided under the current recount laws. Troubled by assertion that by not agreeing with Franken’s arguments, canvassing board is a rubber stamp. Same question: OK with delay? Answer: Fine.

1:55 p.m.: Recount plan approved unanimously. But they intend to meet again to take up issues Franken’s campaign raised. That too passes unanimously. Recess. And now to Ritchie’s office for a media availability.

2:05 p.m.: The Mark Ritchie after party is taking place upstairs. The podium is empty but the room is filling up with reporters and camera operators. I’m trying to be both but my videocam just started doing this thing it does when it’s not going to work anymore. So we’ll move to the liveblog.

2:10 p.m.: Q: When notified of brief filed today? A: Last part arrived at 12:40 p.m. Q: Recount delayed? “Absolutely not.” Q: Coleman has declared victory. Is there a winner? A: No winner in four races. Willingness to delay decision on brief a “natural reaction.” First two days of recount will be tough. Q: Aren’t claims of improprieties in count criticisms of the process? A: We want to be correct.

2:15 p.m.: Q: Why can’t candidates in recount races say they won? Ritchie: “Candidates can say anything and they are known to say anything.” Next answer: Canvas board members have been bringing their own case citations to bear on the questions, some from the 1850s even. Q: When did Franken brief arrive. Staff answer: Monday at 1 p.m. Q: Uncomfortable to be lone non-judge on canvas board? A: “Not so much.”

2:20 p.m.: Q: Paper bags for random drawings? A: “I tried to think of something less campy. The last time it was a fishbowl and Alan Page’s hands were too big to get into it.” Q: Without legal background, how will you handle questions facing board? A: I’ll listen to justices, attorneys, others. I’ll benefit from their ideas. Q: Rough patches expected? A: First two days. “But I don’t expect real rough places. Largest jurisdictions have more work to do, will be pushed to complete tasks by August (?!) 5th.” (He means December.)

2:25 p.m.: Q: Confident that rejected ballots are really ok? A: Don’t know. Q: What about Franken assertion about canvassing not properly “public?” A: That was new to me. Gary Poser, Director of Elections takes the podium. Explains how his office conducts the performance review from selected precincts. Who’s doing what well that could be shared across state. Q: Look at how absentee ballots are evaluated? A: Given this year, I’m sure that will be a topic. Further explains how gap went up to 215 between Coleman and Franken due to the reviews. Q: What about undervotes? A: Not counted yet. Will have early next year for feds.

2:30 p.m. Ritchie says the board members are confident the recount will happen without interruptions from future. That was the last question. The action moves out to the hallway as Ritchie first mock-wilts, then talks about grabbing lunch finally, or never mind that, breakfast.