Democrat Mark Dayton widened his lead Monday in the Minnesota gubernatorial race on the first day of a statewide recount, adding 24 more votes to his nearly 8,800-vote advantage.
That increase included Dayton picking up one vote in a Goodview precinct during a hand recount conducted at the Winona County Government Center.
Republican Tom Emmer’s vote total in the county did not change during the process, which was delayed by more than 90 minutes Monday afternoon when officials discovered 23 ballots from Utica Township were missing. The ballots were eventually retrieved from a voting machine at the township hall and recounted, prompting a small round of applause from about a dozen people remaining in the government center.
Statewide, election officials will hand-sort more than 2.1 million ballots during the automatic recount that will last into next week. The taxpayer-funded recount is automatic because Dayton’s lead is within a half-percentage point.
If Emmer overcomes Dayton’s lead — a result most observers think unlikely — the GOP would hold both the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature. Emmer could also sue if the recount confirms Dayton as the winner.
But Monday’s work in Winona was marked by a state of relative calm compared to the contentiousness of the 2008 U.S. Senate recount, election officials said.
Whereas representatives of then-Sen. Norm Coleman and now-Sen. Al Franken challenged 45 votes in 2008, representatives for Dayton and Emmer issued only eight challenges.
The only real glitch was the missing ballots in Utica Township.
Representatives from both gubernatorial campaigns drove to the township hall and, along with an election official,
See recount, A3
found the 23 missing ballots still in the machine.
Officials in Houston and Fillmore counties also completed their recounts Monday.
In Fillmore County, Emmer gained one vote, and his representatives challenged four ballots. Dayton’s total did not change, nor did his representatives challenge any ballots.
In Houston County, Emmer’s campaign lodged 12 challenges to two placed by Dayton’s campaign. Vote totals remained the same.
Election officials in Wabasha County recounted 18 of 33 precincts. Each campaign has challenged one ballot. The remainder will be recounted Wednesday, due to all-day meetings in the county board room.
The goal is to wrap up the recount phase by mid-December. The Secretary of State’s office said Monday nearly 45 percent of all ballots have been recounted.