Minnesota Governor's Race Heads to Automatic Recount

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Minnesota board on Tuesday ordered a recount in the state's undecided governor's race but didn't immediately settle some of the unresolved mechanics about the rules governing the recount.

The five-member State Canvassing Board certified election totals that show Democrat Mark Dayton with an 8,770-vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer. That's within the half-percentage point margin that makes a recount automatic under state law.

The recount is scheduled to begin Monday and finish by mid-December. The new governor is to take office Jan. 3, but that could be delayed if either side files a legal challenge to the recount result.

Tuesday's certification of the numbers was mostly a formality once it was clear that the unofficial election night numbers weren't going to change enough to raise Dayton's lead to more than half a point. The major issue for both the Dayton and Emmer camps was how the board would handle recount rules, and it spent hours going over them.

Among the biggest clashes is who decides on what ballot challenges are considered "frivolous." A new rule adopted after the lengthy 2008 recount of Minnesota's U.S. Senate race gave local authorities more power to question the validity of a challenge from a campaign.

Two years ago, campaign representatives challenged more than 6,600 ballots, some for nothing more than stray marks or coffee stains that did nothing to cast doubt on the voter's intent. The campaigns eventually withdrew more than 5,000 of them to spare the board from having to rule on who, if anyone, deserved the vote.

Emmer's campaign argued that local officials shouldn't have final authority to block challenges. Some on the canvassing board agreed and argued that the five-member panel should have the ability to review those decisions.

Justice Paul Anderson said he understands the fear of a flood of misguided challenges, but he also worries about giving the loser grounds to sue later.

"All I want, honest to God, is to get this thing resolved so the people of Minnesota can get the governor they elected," Anderson said.

Eric Magnuson, an Emmer attorney, said the board should trust campaigns not to abuse their right to challenge.

"We have been sternly admonished not to be frivolous and we take that seriously," he said.