In this morning's Glean at MinnPost, Brian Lambert writes in Judge orders 35 random ballots tossed in tight House race:
What century is this? WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler reports on the rather medieval approach to House District 8B’s mangled election: “A Minnesota judge has ruled that election officials must randomly cancel 35 ballots in a tight legislative race due to a counting error. The law says judges must close their eyes, reach into the pile of votes and pull out excess ballots at random. The action has ramifications for the unresolved contest between Republican Rep. Mary Franson and Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff. Franson is ahead by a single vote pending a probable recount. A Douglas County judge sided Tuesday with Franson and ordered that the county canvassing board remove the ballots before a tally is certified on Wednesday.” How about we throw a dead cat over a nun’s left shoulder and see if it floats?
One Minnesota candidate has already been swept into office via this "rather medieval" method: Dale Fenrich.
Earlier this month, a tie for county commissioner in Meeker County was settled by a random ballot being pulled, the Litchfield Independent Review reported in Voting error goes in Fenrich's favor:
A voting error at a precinct in Litchfield Township broke a tie in the race for District 2 County Commissioner, resulting in the Meeker County Auditor’s Office Friday declaring Dale Fenrich the winner by one vote.
Unofficial election night results listed the two candidates in a dead heat, with 1,069 votes each for Fenrich and incumbent Dave Gabrielson. However, after reviewing results, staff from the auditor’s office identified a discrepancy between the number of voter signatures on the roster and the ballots counted for Litchfield Township, according to a news release from Meeker County Auditor Barb Loch on Friday morning. The discrepancy was also noted by the Litchfield Township election judges on their incident log.
On Friday, Loch said the log indicates a voter accidentally received and cast two ballots. She said the log states, "Voter received two ballots. Voted on front of one and back of the other. Deposited both into the scanner before election judge could intervene.”
Loch said voting errors are not unusual, though they rarely affect the outcome of a vote. "This one is notorious because it was dead-on even," she said.
Loch said her office followed state law requiring the number of voter signatures to match the number of ballots counted in a precinct. In the case of Litchfield Township, there was one extra ballot, Loch said. On Thursday, one ballot was randomly selected and removed from a box containing all ballots cast in Litchfield Township. Two election judges witnessed the process, Loch said.
In removing the extra ballot, the results for the County Commissioner District 2 race now show Fenrich with 1,069 votes and Gabrielson with 1,068 votes. The results were officially approved Friday at a County Canvas Board meeting.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, another contested election moved back and forth until a Coin Toss Determines Albertville Race, KSTP reports:
A City Council race in Albertville that hinged on a single contested ballot has instead been decided by a coin flip.
The initial vote count had candidate Mark Barthel winning by one vote. A recount reversed the outcome, with Larry Sorensen up by one vote.
Barthel then contested a ballot in which the voter only partially filled in the bubble next to Sorensen's name. The City Council was divided on whether the ballot should be considered valid, prompting Monday's coin toss.
Sorensen was assigned heads and Barthel tails. A Minneapolis Star Tribune report says heads prevailed.
Sorensen says the outcome proves how true it is that every vote counts. Barthel says he respects the integrity of the process.
Look to Mary Kiffmeyer to introduce a constitutional amendment banning coins, which would put an end to this sort of thing.
Photo: Meeker County in 1895.