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Emmer admits he lacks recount votes, but presses on

ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer said today that he is not gaining enough votes in a recount to win the Minnesota governor race, but said he needs more answers before ending his post-election effort.

The Republican state representative from Delano said he expects most ballot challenges his team issued during this week's recount to be withdrawn, perhaps as early as Friday afternoon. Emmer's team has challenged more than 3,500 ballots, not nearly enough to overcome the 8,725-vote lead held by Democrat Mark Dayton.

However, Emmer said, before deciding whether to take the election to court he needs to know why the state Supreme Court ruled against him last month in a case demanding that the number of ballots and number of voters be reconciled before the statewide recount. Also, he said, his legal team needs to look at a Dec. 15 statewide voter registration system update.

Emmer's only path to victory appears to be challenging the election in court. Answers to the reconciliation and voter system questions would determine whether that will happen, he said.

"I am not currently planning an election (court) contest," he told reporters during a brief morning news conference at state Republican Party headquarters.

Emmer said he ordered his attorneys to review ballot challenges to speed up the process.

"A great deal of the challenges out there will be withdrawn," he said.

Challenges may be made by representatives of either candidate while election officials hand-count each of the 2.1 million ballots cast in the Nov. 2 election. If an election official deems the challenge frivolous, meaning it has no merit, the ballot is counted. Other challenged ballots are sent to the State Canvassing Board.

The board meets Friday afternoon to consider what to do about frivolous ballots, but since Dayton's recount team earlier withdrew challenges and this morning Emmer did the same, it is not clear what business is left for the board.

Next week, however, the board is scheduled to examine each legitimately challenged ballot and by Dec. 14 declare a winner in the governor race.

If Emmer opts to take the election to court, it could stretch the contest for weeks or months. However, he said today, his goal is to get a new governor sworn in on Jan. 3.

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

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.