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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Recount necessary in Supreme Court race

Stop the presses! The ballot presses anyway.

It looks like there will be a recount in the race for Justice Lorie Gildea's seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Gildea came out far ahead of her three challengers with 53.45 percent of the vote in the primary election yesterday. Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund is the purported second-place finisher with 17.86 percent of the vote, which is less than one-half of a percentage point ahead of Golden Valley attorney Jill Clark's 17.43 percent.

According to Clark, the recount was initiated by the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. She indicated that she got a call about 1:00 p.m. this afternoon from the office indicating that the race fell with the "automatic recount range."

Hedlund said a recount in such a close race wasn't unexpected, although she was not aware there was an automatic recount range. "I think the entire state is electronic so at least we won't have any hanging chads," she said.

In fact, it is the paper mark-the-oval ballots that will be retrieved, reviewed and recounted by hand. According to the Secretary of State's Office, the recount will involve a manual review of more than 300,000 ballots (most of which were originally fed into optical-scan machines). An estimated 90,000 of those were cast in Hennepin County. The current count has Hedlund leading by 1,369 votes-- a margin unlikely to erased by any recount, according to a knowledgeable source.

Discussing the recount this afternoon at a St. Paul event sponsored by Politics in Minnesota, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said it is "a very unusual thing to have happen. " The last statewide recount reportedly was in the 1962 governor's race.

Ritchie also said that his office had contingency plans in place for a statewide recount and anticipates that it could be completed in as little as three days once it starts. The recount has to be completed in time for ballots to be printed and in the mail to absentee voters by Oct.3.

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