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The other day I posted a diary about my experiences observing last month's statewide recount.  Today, I received a letter from Mark Ritchie, our Secretary of State, with a big-picture analysis.

Letter after the fold....

Democracy in Action

Dear Friends,

Many of you have contacted me with questions about the statewide hand recount conducted by my Office of the Secretary of State last week to settle a very close Minnesota Supreme Court primary election.

Here's the scoop.        

This is Minnesota’s first statewide recount in nearly half a century.          

In 1962 it took 139 days to recount the governor's race between Karl Rolvaag and Elmer L. Anderson. This time we didn’t have that kind of time. In order to get our absentee ballots printed and mailed to voters overseas and elsewhere on time we had to complete this process in less than one week – and we did. From start to finish it took 55 hours, thanks to the fantastic assistance we received from local and county officials across the state.

One of the reasons we were able to do this so quickly is that our staff had prepared recount plans before the election – just in case. The critical element was relying on election administrators in all 87 counties to organize and conduct the hand counting – a huge task that is over and above their hectic work preparing for the record turnout we expect in November.  Fortunately, our office and these local officials have been working together closely over the past two years, creating partnerships based on mutual respect that are paying off in many important ways, including this fast and efficient recount. I am so appreciative of their willingness to tackle this challenge. We are blessed to have such dedicated public servants.

I am also grateful to the legislative leaders who have repeatedly rejected demands by some that we should abandon "old-fashioned" paper ballots and move towards paperless computer-based voting. Without paper ballots we could not have conducted this recount. I have been pleased to see other states returning to paper-based voting, including Florida, Tennessee and Maryland, but way too many voters in this year's presidential election will still be voting on machines that cannot recounted. Computers are great for many things but not for elections that must be private, secure, accurate, and fair in order for voters to trust the reported results.

Our nation's democracy has always included closely divided contests - and always will. Recounting elections, however, should not become a sham like Florida in 2000. We have an opportunity to show the nation the importance of paper ballots that can be recounted, dedicated non-partisan election administrators that put public service first, and state laws that define the process to ensure transparency and fairness. This recount is huge task but also a tremendous opportunity.

High performance democracy is not just about big turnouts on Election Day—it’s also voting systems that guarantee free, fair, and secure elections and recounts.

I feel very fortunate to be the Secretary of State here in Minnesota.

Thank you for your continuing support.


Mark Ritchie

P.S. Last weekend Nancy and I got a chance to watch the new movie Recount, where actor Kevin Spacey and friends carefully recreate the 2000 election debacle in Florida.  It is an absolutely astonishing inside look at how that election and recount was manipulated from beginning to end - check it out.

Prepared and paid for by Mark Ritchie for Secretary of State

Some Numbers from the MN SOS website for the geeks:

Total ballots statewide cast for Senator: 405,975

This race:

Candidate         Totals Pct
LORIE SKJERVEN GILDEA 169,017      53.45
DEBORAH HEDLUND   56,477      17.86
JILL CLARK           55,129      17.43
F. RICHARD GALLO, JR. 35,576      11.25
               316,199      99.99

Originally posted to chriscol on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 08:34 AM PDT.

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