ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican Tom Emmer’s dwindling hopes of a comeback win in Minnesota governor’s race depend partly on detecting flaws in the election by analyzing a statewide voter database.
But routine post-election updates to the system won’t be completed anytime soon, and officials caution that the system can’t be used the way Emmer wants — to pair the number of votes and eligible voters.
“They will never get to even,” said Beth Fraser, director of governmental affairs for the Minnesota Secretary of State. She said the system serves a different purpose than being a virtual voting roster.
On Friday, Emmer described a Dec. 15 deadline for counties to feed information into the Statewide Voter Registration System as a critical factor in his consideration of an election lawsuit. A manual recount showed little overall movement, and Emmer could be more than 9,000 votes behind Democrat Mark Dayton when the new count is certified next week.
If Emmer files an election contest, it would deny Dayton the formal certificate he needs to take office on Jan. 3.
For weeks, Emmer and his lawyers have raised the possibility — without firm proof — that there were more votes than voters in the election. They went to court to try to force a process called reconciliation using sign-in rosters at polling places, but the Supreme Court denied the emergency petition. The court has yet to say why.
Emmer contends that the voter database could be another avenue for comparison. The SVRS, as it’s known among election authorities, is “the best evidence we have to determine who voted,” Emmer said in an interview last week.
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.
There is little chance, however, that all 87 counties will meet the Dec. 15 deadline for entering voter history into the system. Minnesota law says county auditors can get indefinite extensions to enter data on voters who registered on Election Day, which in 2010 topped 227,000 voters.
Emmer must file any lawsuit within seven days of the race being certified by the state Canvassing Board, a step now set for Dec. 14.
“We just spent six days counting every ballot by hand and we got that done,” Emmer said. “We can’t update the SVRS two weeks later? I think we can.”
In Hennepin County, Minnesota’s largest by population, information on about 40,000 of 59,000 new voters has been entered into the system. County elections manager Rachel Smith said the work “was delayed a little bit because of the recount,” and she anticipates finalizing the updates by early January.
Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky doesn’t expect to finish before late December. Morrison County has also sought more time, Fraser said.
Mansky said it’s not as simple as putting a person’s name into a spreadsheet. The process involves searching the system by the voter’s name to prevent duplication and to fix outdated information, such as a prior address.
There are other caveats in the way of a voter-to-votes comparison. People can apply to keep their data out of the public domain and certain domestic abuse victims have their information shielded. And people who had absentee ballots that were rejected still get credit for having voted in the election as a way to keep them from being purged from the roster of active voters.
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