Earlier, I wrote that Minnesota has a good, solid voting system based on the optical-scan ballot. The system allows precincts to remove human intervention in the count, electronically transmitting the totals from each precinct to the Secretary of State while printing its totals locally for the judges to sign and publicly post. Not only should that make the results reliable, but the nature of optical-scan ballots makes it easy for recounts, either by machine or by hand.
Just as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was explaining to reporters the recount process in one of the narrowest elections in Minnesota history, an aide rushed in with news: Pine County’s Partridge Township had revised its vote total upward — another 100 votes for Democratic candidate Al Franken, putting him within .011 percentage points of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
The reason for the change? Exhausted county officials had accidentally entered 24 for Franken instead of 124 when the county’s final votes were tallied at 5:25 Wednesday morning.
Is this legitimate? A few precincts do not use the optical-scan ballot, and apparently Patridge Township is one of them. Leaving off a digit in a vote count can happen when tallying by hand. Still, as the days wore on this week, all of those “corrections” appeared to be going in a single direction — towards Franken.
John notes that human intervention appears to have occurred despite the optical-scan system:
Hot off the press, the first apparent evidence of fraud. Last night at around 7:30, a precinct in Mountain Iron, St. Louis County, mysteriously updated its vote total to add 100 new votes–all 100 for Barack Obama and Al Franken.
Mountain Iron uses optical scanning, so the Coleman campaign asked for a copy of the tape documenting the ballots cast on election night. St. Louis County responded by providing a tape that includes the newly-added 100 votes, and is dated November 2–the Sunday before the election. St. Louis County reportedly denies being able to produce the genuine tape from election night, even though Minnesota law, as I understand it, requires that tape to be signed by the election judges and publicly displayed.
The irony is that the Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, won election in 2006 after (unfairly) accusing then-incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer of partisanship in her administration of elections. Ritchie won with the help of MoveOn and the support of ACORN. Now we will see whether Ritchie means what he says about nonpartisanship, or whether we will see fraud determine the outcome of an election in a state reknowned for its clean operation in elections. So far, it doesn’t look very good for Minnesota.