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County responding to Emmer election data requests

Washington County's top election official said it could take at least another week or longer to turn over all election documents sought by the Minnesota Republican Party and governor candidate Tom Emmer.

The Emmer campaign has requested documents related to Election Day polling place activity, absentee ballot information and other public vote data ahead of a likely hand recount in the governor's race.

Kevin Corbid, director of Washington County Property Records and Taxpayer Services, said his department has provided some data to the Emmer-Republican Party legal team, but remaining requests will take longer to complete.

"We have most of the work left to do," Corbid said Tuesday.

The Emmer-Republican Party team has requested a total of roughly 35,000 pages of documents from Washington County, Corbid said. As of Tuesday the county had received no election records requests from Democrat Mark Dayton's legal team, he said.

Lawyers for Emmer and the Republican Party announced Tuesday that two northeastern Minnesota counties agreed to provide by Friday most of the election information requested by the GOP candidate's team. That came after Emmer attorneys filed a lawsuit last week seeking quicker action by St. Louis and Pine counties.

"We are only interested in getting the information we are entitled to under the law, not winning a lawsuit," Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton said.

The Republican-Emmer legal team wants the information, ranging from copies of absentee ballot applications to reports of incidents at polling places, to prepare for a governor's race recount scheduled to begin on Nov. 29. It also could be used for a court challenge if Emmer still trails Dayton.

Dayton holds an 8,755-vote lead over Emmer, who is entitled to a state-funded hand recount of all 2.1 million ballots.

The GOP legal team has requested of Washington County many of the same documents sought by lawyers for Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken during the 2008 U.S. Senate recount, Corbid said.

Information that Corbid said already has been turned over includes:

-- Voter names and addresses for the county's roughly 7,200 absentee ballots.

-- The reason for each of the county's 267 rejected absentee ballots.

-- Names and addresses for anyone who requested an absentee ballot. There were at least 8,500 applications distributed in the county.

-- Names for all election workers in Oakdale and Woodbury and the precincts in which they worked. (The county administers elections in those two cities).

-- Copies of Election Day incident logs from all 90 county precincts as well as copies of forms that election workers sign when they pick up and drop off ballots.

That information was relatively easy to compile, Corbid said, but other document requests will take more time to fulfill. The outstanding requests include photocopies of Washington County absentee ballot envelopes, absentee ballot application forms, election night "summary tapes" from the vote-counting machines, rosters that voters sign to receive their ballot and any forms signed by people who vouched for a newly registered voter.

Corbid said his department has been in contact with Emmer's team and has not been pressured to turn over documents by a particular deadline.

One of the struggles that Corbid said his office faces is that state law requires election workers to finish entering voter information into a state database before that data can be made public. That could take several weeks following an election, he said.

"The parts that we're just starting now are the ones that are going to be time-consuming," he said.

Corbid said his office is keeping track of the time it spends fulfilling the requests, but does not yet know how much it will charge the Emmer campaign to compile the data and copy the documents.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., parent company of the South Washington County Bulletin.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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