GREENWOOD TWP- It was slow, steady, and by the book (or the Minnesota 2016 Recount Guide), and after a little less than three hours, Greenwood Township residents had the definitive count, and the …
GREENWOOD TWP- It was slow, steady, and by the book (or the Minnesota 2016 Recount Guide), and after a little less than three hours, Greenwood Township residents had the definitive count, and the results were….exactly the same as on election night.
The township finally conducted the recount of the March 13 election on Friday, April 6, with the meeting opening at 1 p.m. Township attorney Mike Couri oversaw the meeting and ran a tight ship.
“We have done recounts before,” he said. “They are relatively rare.”
Couri explained that the two candidates who requested the recount had the right to a free recount under state law, because the vote was so close, in these cases five and six votes.
He noted that the recount simply recounts the ballots, it does not determine who was eligible to vote or if absentee ballots were counted correctly.
He explained that it was not uncommon to find a difference in the vote tally.
“That can happen,” he said. “Typically the errors are random and offset each other.”
Couri explained exactly how the recount would proceed, and asked that the audience remain silent during the entire process. He did allow for questions before the recount began and he affirmed that the candidates and their representatives did have the right to ask questions about the process. He also explained what would happen if a candidate or their representative challenged a ballot, and that those ballots would then be judged by the township’s Board of Canvass, which is the town board. He strongly advised that if any challenges needed to be judged, and if they concerned a current town board member, those members recuse themselves from that vote.
Jeff Peterson, who was representing candidate Byron Beihoffer, thanked Couri for the explanation of the process. He stressed that the state’s recount guidelines are not only for larger election, but for everybody.
“So the recount is fair for everyone,” he said. “We have every confidence that this recount is being held within state law.”
Peterson had been concerned with the implication in the Timberjay’s April 6 article that he had somehow been responsible for the shutting down of the April 2 recount. He met with the Timberjay after the article was published, and emphasized that he had twice told the clerk at the April 2 meeting it was not his intention that the recount be postponed or cancelled.
Peterson did question Couri about the issue of one of the appointed recount election judges, Mary Richard. Peterson had raised the issue of appearance of potential bias in regards to Richard, who had written a letter to the editor in support of specific candidates.
“I was advised that your partner, Robert Ruppe, recommended that Ms. Richard not be allowed as judge,” Peterson said.
Couri responded that he had recommended to Clerk Sue Drobac that she make that decision.
“I have no concerns,” Couri said. She has her First Amendment right to express her concerns. You are a small township. Each of these election judges are here in an observer role and a counting role. There is much transparency. There is nothing that would disqualify Mary Richard as a judge.”
The recount begins
The recount itself got underway at 1:30 p.m. The first step, after unsealing the ballots, which had been secured in a cardboard box, was to sort each ballot so they were in all facing the same way. There were 313 ballots cast on the election, and one blank ballot. There were 24 unused ballots, which were also recounted as part of the process.
Each of the two supervisor seats was recounted separately, starting with Seat 3, with candidates Larry Tahija and John Bassing. Clerk Drobac raised each ballot, one by one, and stated who the vote had been cast for. The candidates and their representatives got to view each ballot, and could raise concerns at any point.
Larry, John, Larry, John, Larry, Larry, John, John, Larry…
Tahija votes went into one pile, and Bassing votes into the other. With the vote so close, the names rang out almost in pairs.
Once all the ballots had been sorted, the recount judges, Carol Maus and Mary Richard, took turns counting them out and piling them by 25s.
There were a couple of instances where candidates, or the election judges themselves, called out to recount a pile, due to the stickiness of the paper ballots.
The recount showed the vote at 158 for Tahija and 153 for Bassing, the same as on election night. There were no challenged ballots. There were two ballots where neither candidate had been selected, for a total of 313 ballots.
The second recount, for Seat 5 with Byron Beihoffer and Rick Stoehr, followed. The counting was a little faster, with a few more “no vote” ballots in the mix. The vast majority of Tahija ballots were also for Beihoffer, and the same went for Bassing, Stoehr. The final recount showed 154 for Beihoffer and 148 for Stoehr, with 11 ballots with no candidate marked, again a total of 313 votes cast. There were no challenged ballots on this recount either.
Board of Canvass
The Greenwood Board of Canvass met on Sunday, April 8 to officially accept the vote. Couri told the board they need to wait ten days to swear in new supervisor Byron Beihoffer, because the losing candidate does have the right to challenge the recount in court. There was no indication that this would happen.