ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — A Minnesota judge has ruled that election officials must randomly cancel 35 ballots in a tight legislative race due to a counting error.

The law says judges must close their eyes, reach into the pile of votes and pull out excess ballots at random.

The action has ramifications for the unresolved contest between Republican Rep. Mary Franson and Democratic challenger Bob Cunniff. Franson is ahead by a single vote pending a probable recount.

A Douglas County judge sided Tuesday with Franson and ordered that the county canvassing board remove the ballots before a tally is certified on Wednesday.

Some voters received the wrong ballots on Election Day at shared polling place for voters from two different legislative districts. State law calls for the random extraction to remove excess votes.

The race is almost certain to meet the threshold for an automatic recount. That is slated to start on Nov. 28.

A Dated Law?

One of Minnesota’s top election experts says the canceling ballots procedure is an archaic practice dating back to the 1800s, when extra votes were common. Back then, politicians paid voters to stuff the ballot boxes.

Joe Mansky, the Ramsey County elections director, says the law definitely needs to be changed — the sooner, the better.

“It’s a terribly unfair process. Terribly unfair,” he said. “Because what they are doing is: They are punishing an innocent voter who did nothing wrong.”

In this election, Franson has a razor thin, 1-vote margin over Cunniff.

And the outspoken Franson is no stranger to controversy. One of her legislative videos went viral after she compared food-stamp recipients to animals.

“We want to create a safety net, not a safety hammock,” she said.

State law requires a recount, like in the Franken-Coleman race. But Douglas County will likely do exactly what the law says: throw out extra ballots.

Legislative races this close are extremely rare. A state Representative won his seat two years ago by six votes, but you’ve got to go back to the 1800s to find a one vote victory.

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