S.D. Candidates May Face Recount

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Candidates and campaigns at the top of South Dakota's hotly contested general election ballot might face the same choice John Thune (search) faced two years ago when the numbers said he had lost to Sen. Tim Johnson (search) by 524 votes.

If something like that happens to either candidate in the Senate race this year, there would be much more pressure for a recount, according to Michael Card, a state government and politics professor at the University of South Dakota.

"Part of that, I think, was Thune wanted to get on with his life," Card said of the Republican's 2002 decision not to seek a recount.

"I'm not so sure he'd be in such a hurry to get on with it this year as in 2002. I thin is automatic if there's a tie. Otherwise, the margin must be less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the votes cast in statewide campaigns. It must be less than 2 percent of the votes in legislative district races, Secretary of State Chris Nelson said.

Two years ago, the recount margin was 843 votes. A larger turnout 2004 could push that margin to 900 votes or more.

The last statewide recount was in 1962, when Democrat George McGovern defeated Republican Joe Bottum by 597 votes.

In 1978, Daschle won a recount by 139 votes over Republican Leo Thorsness in the race for the House seat in the old 1st Congressional District.

Card said technology makes major errors in counting less likely. A losing candidate would have to weigh a recount request knowing "there was a low chance for a major turnaround in the outcome," he said.

Counties shoulder recount costs.

Single-precinct recounts are possible in South Dakota if three voters request it, Nelson said. "There's no margin requirement for this, but the voters must claim that the results are erroneous," he said.

Recount requests can be filed only after the official canvass of the returns. The presiding judge of the judicial circuit appoints three-member county recount boards. One member must be a Republican and one a Democrat. And the referee must be a lawyer. They look at each ballot to determine whether it has been spoiled, whether the voter's preference is clear, and similar issues.

Two years ago, Minnehaha County Auditor Sue Roust estimated that a congressional recount in her county would take at least a week.