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Recount changes proposed

Published (4/10/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Election recounts could become a less frequent occurrence under a bill approved April 2 by a House committee.

Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson) sponsors HF1137 that would reduce the vote difference threshold that automatically triggers a recount. Under current law, any state or federal race that results in a difference of less than 0.5 percent of the vote between the two leading candidates requires a recount. The bill would reduce the threshold to 0.25 percent.

“The effect would be to trigger fewer recounts. We’re saying that in order for a recount to be triggered, there has to be a smaller number of votes,” Hilty explained.

The House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee approved the bill and referred it to the House State Government Finance Division. Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) sponsors the companion, SF768, which awaits action by the Senate State Government Budget Division.

In addition to changing the threshold, the bill would require the apparent losing candidate to file a written request for a recount with the State Canvassing Board. Beth Fraser, director of governmental affairs for the Office of the Secretary of State, said the purpose is to avoid initiating recounts in cases where a losing candidate doesn’t actually want one.

The bill would also change the threshold for local elections. For races where 25,000 or more votes are cast, the threshold would be 0.25 percent; for races with between 400 and 25,000 votes cast, it would be 0.5 percent; and for races with 400 or fewer total votes, the threshold would be 10 votes or less.

The bill also includes a requirement that individuals challenging ballots on behalf of a candidate be Minnesota residents. Hilty said many of the problems experienced during the recent U.S. Senate race recount resulted from out-of-state challengers who were not familiar with Minnesota’s election laws.

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