Tom Emmer tries to cast doubt on Hennepin County results

Republicans assume that Tom Emmer, right, is getting screwed.

Republicans assume that Tom Emmer, right, is getting screwed.

Tom Emmer sounded like a reasonable guy this afternoon, asking that his campaign for governor be granted its rights according to the legally-required vote recount process in Minnesota.

Not asking for special treatment, he said. Just want to follow the law.


But it's also clear from some of his comments today at a news conference that Emmer and the Republicans are going to use Hennepin County's election night vote tally error as their whipping boy in the recount process.

Lame duck Gov. Tim Pawlenty just did that within the friendly confines of Sean Hannity's show.

And the Republican Party of Minnesota is now using the Hennepin County issue as a way to help raise money to support its efforts to monitor the recount.

Today, Emmer was asked:

Q: Do you think there were serious problems in Hennepin County?

A: There was something going on that no one really understands yet.

That's not true. We do understand what happened. It was explained in mind-numbing detail by Hennepin County elections manager Rachel Smith to MPR's Brandt Williams: A computer operator mistakenly updated a database the wrong way, and the vote tally for a specific Plymouth precinct was doubled.

Election officials caught the mistake shortly after 10 p.m., were open about it with reporters, and had it fixed in about an hour. The upshot: Emmer gained 60,000 votes once the mistake was corrected.

Since then, like all counties, it has audited its results. And they've been certified by the County Canvassing Board. In the final count, Emmer picked up another six votes.

But Emmer, who told reporters that his recount team is being guided as much by the state GOP as it is by his own campaign team, later seemed to make it clear that Hennepin County was still suspect.

Q: You're not sure if you can win or not?

A: We'll make sure those questions that exist -- military ballots, absentee ballots, the issue in Hennepin County [where there is] about a 200,000-400,000 vote mistake -- I think you've just got to let the process play itself out.

Maybe we're misinterpreting Emmer. Maybe he's saying he himself doesn't understand what happened. That might even make sense, since he took off for Manitoba after the election to watch his son Tripp play hockey in Manitoba. Maybe he just needs to bone up on the news clippings.

But his comments fit in neatly with the Republican meme that, rather than losing an election, they're getting screwed again by a biased recount (facts be damned). Especially since Hennepin County is a Democratic stronghold, and it represents a whopping 20 percent of the state's electorate.

Meanwhile, Democrat Mark Dayton leads Emmer by 8,751 votes.

All votes from all counties are set to be certified by the State Canvassing Board Nov. 23. If the final margin of victory is within one half of 1 percentage point, an automatic recount is triggered.