9 things to know about Rochester’s ballot recounts

August 27, 2018

Rochester’s primary election recounts are set for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Recounts for elections in the First and Fifth wards will identify who is on the Nov. 6 general election ballot with the front-runner in each race.

In Ward 1, five votes separated second-place finisher Heather Holmes (935 votes) and Paul Myhrom (930 votes). Since Patrick Keane (1,242 votes) secured one of two spots on the general election ballot with the most votes, the second-place finisher will join him in the November election.

The Ward 5 vote had a wider margin — 18 votes — but remained within a 0.5 percent divide. On election night, the results put Judy Hickey (771 votes) ahead of Byron Clark (753 votes) for the No. 2 spot. Shaun Palmer secured the top spot with 856 votes.

Here are a few things to know about the recounts:

1 Both will follow the same schedule.

The Ward 1 recount is Tuesday, followed by the Ward 5 recount on Wednesday.

Each recount will start after the ballots are transferred from Olmsted County’s possession and picked up at 8 a.m.

The ballots will be delivered to Riverview Room D at the Mayo Civic Center, where the hand count will begin at 9 a.m.

2 Margins allow publicly funded recounts.

Since the difference between the second- and third-place candidates in both wards was less than 0.5 percent, the city will pay for the recounts.

The number of votes in the margins for the two Rochester wards were different, based on the number of actual voters.

In Ward 1, 3,443 total ballots were cast, putting 17 votes within the 0.5 percent, but the 3,690 total votes in Ward 5 raised the bar to 18 votes, which is nearly 0.49 percent of the total cast.

3 Recounts are not automatic.

Myhrom and Clark had to submit written requests for the recounts to the Rochester City Clerk Anissa Hollingshead in order to trigger the ballot reviews.

Other recounts could have been requested, but would not have been publicly funded. Hollingshead said none were requested by Wednesday’s deadline.

4 Election judges will conduct the recount.

The city clerk is planning to tap election judges to perform the hand count of the ballots.

The election judges will be paid $10 per hour for the work, which is the same rate they receive during an election.

5 Machine-related errors are possible

Optical-scan machines are very accurate, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, which noted they undergo pre-election testing and periodic audits.

“However, a small percentage of voters — usually about 1 in every 2,000 or 3,000, or approximately 1,000 out of 2 million voters — mark their ballot in a way that cannot be read by a machine,” states the office’s website

6 All ballots will be checked.

The recounts will include all 12 precincts in the First Ward and the eight precincts in the Fifth Ward.

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s website noted ballots are typically divided into stacks — one for each candidate involved in the recount, and one for all other ballots.

Once ballots have been sorted into piles, they are counted by election officials.

7 The process is open to the public.

Candidates and their representatives will be allowed to watch the recount, along with any other interested parties.

State rules note a candidate’s representative can challenge an election official’s decision, but only trained election officials are allowed to handle ballots during the recount.

8 The city’s last recount was in 2002.

The last time a recount in a Rochester City Council election was in 2002 when Randy Staver and Peg Arnold finished within 12 votes for each other in a primary with incumbent council member Bob Nowicki, who was the top vote-getter.

Arnold requested a recount after finishing behind Staver for the second nomination to the general election ballot. The recount resulted in one additional vote being attributed to Staver from election night totals.

9 City Council will confirm results.

Once the recounts are complete, at least four council members will be required to review and finalize the results.

They will also be tasked with making determinations on any challenged ballots.

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