Emmer, Minn. GOP Weigh Risks Of Election Lawsuit

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican Tom Emmer laid down markers Friday as he considers suing over the Minnesota governor’s election now that it’s clear he will fall short to Democrat Mark Dayton in a recount.

As the manual review of 2.1 million ballots was wrapping up, Emmer didn’t come anywhere near making up a pre-recount deficit of 8,770 votes. Pending ballot challenges won’t fill the gap either even if they all break his way.

That puts the focus on what happens after the race is certified in two weeks. Emmer said he isn’t “currently planning” a lawsuit but he’s not ruling it out.

Emmer, a state legislator, said that before deciding a next move he wants to see the Supreme Court’s reasons for not forcing counties to match up polling place rosters to vote tallies before the recount. The court denied his emergency petition last month but hasn’t issued a full opinion. Republicans contend there are more votes than actual voters in some precincts.

Emmer also put weight on updates to a statewide voter database, which counties are supposed to complete by Dec. 15. Emmer told The Associated Press he wants to cross reference that data with records that could show if ineligible felons or noncitizens voted and whether people who voted absentee also cast a ballot in person.

“I’m not out there asking for anything over and beyond what’s required by law,” Emmer said.

But counties that won’t make the deadline for system updates can seek indefinite extensions and some have, said Gary Poser, the state elections director.

With recount results for all but two precincts, Dayton led Emmer by 8,822 votes with the Democrat likely to gain more votes once challenged ballots were awarded.

Meanwhile, the state canvassing board sternly rebuked Emmer’s attorneys Friday over the number of challenges the campaign has lodged during the recount. Almost 1,000 challenges await rulings from the board, four-fifths from Emmer’s campaign. Another 2,880 attempted challenges were blocked as “frivolous,” and 99 percent were from Emmer.

In tiny Renville County, there were 422 frivolous challenges out of 6,350 ballots in all. Most were because people cast write-in votes for school board positions. Emmer’s challengers construed those write-ins to be marks that could identify a voter, which isn’t allowed, but officials say the law clearly allows write-ins.

“That kind of borders on the ludicrous,” said canvassing board member Gregg Johnson, a Ramsey County judge.

Emmer lawyer Eric Magnuson chalked it up to “overzealous” volunteers. Dayton attorney Marc Elias ripped his counterparts for allowing volunteers to make dubious challenges, noting the same Emmer lawyers promised to avoid questionable challenges before the recount started.

“Whatever proposals are made here should not be more `Trust us, we get the message,”‘ Elias said. “There needs to be some accountability built into the process.”

In a dramatic turn, Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson lectured Magnuson, the former chief justice, about professional conduct rules for lawyers and the punishment that can come with pushing frivolous causes.

But in the end, the Emmer team scored a minor victory: the board consented to a campaign request to let lawyers go over every ballot challenge classified as frivolous. The process will lead Emmer to withdraw some challenges — as Dayton already has — but some of those ballots could come back to the board as legitimate vote challenges. The inspections will start Saturday in Hennepin County, which had the lion’s share of frivolous challenges.

Under board questioning, Magnuson all but conceded there will be a vote gap at the end of the board’s review phase. He said the board still had an obligation to rule on the challenges.

“The difference will inform the decision of candidate Emmer as to whether to file an election contest and if so what issues to raise,” Magnuson told the board.

Emmer said he won’t file a lawsuit merely to delay the inauguration of Dayton. The next governor is supposed to take office in a month. “I’m talking about following the process, the next governor will be seated on time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Emmer and Dayton remain in limbo. And that means Emmer, who runs a small-town law firm, isn’t taking on new clients. He put his law work on hold during the campaign and tapped deep into his savings.

“It will be a different Christmas at the Emmer household,” the father of seven said.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • John

    Sorry to say Emmer, you should bow out and let Dayton have the job, he won’t last anyway, he will quit just like he did in the senate, so no worries for now. hes a loser like the rest of Obama’s clan. Dayton will hurt the democrats in so many ways that next election will be a land slide .

    • Ignorance must be bliss

      So we are supposed to think that Pawlenty and the GOP is doing (or have done) such a great job that it is all Obama’s side that screws things up? This is what is funny with people saying they are republican or democrat. They just take a side and put blinders on and follow word for word as the snake oil salesperson hands them a bottle of *(cannot be shown here)* and claims that it is rose water. When will people learn that there are more than 2 sides and they all have to work together or nothing gets done? Sad when you think about it that people still say right or left and what they should be saying is what is going on in the middle (which is where we are).

  • John

    Not to be confused with intelligent people named John

  • Snowman

    Bow out. Be a man. You’re beat. I’m a Republican.

  • Steven

    Hey GOP. You will be the poster child for bad faith and greed in 2012 if you keep listening to the lawyers who are billing you to keep this going as long as possible.

  • mpd

    Emmer needs to challenge this…there are too many open questions and the only way around it is through courts…cost shouldn’t matter.

  • Katie

    At a time when many Minnesotans are feeling the pinch of tough economic times and rising prices, it is absurd that millions of dollars be allocated to this process. Clearly the margin is so large that such frivolity on Emmer’s and the Republican party is embarrassing at best. I can think of so many better ways to spend this money.

  • Brad Claggett

    IF Emmer challenges in court the judge should throw it out as a frivolous lawsuit.

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