-by Peder Garnaas-Halvorson
On Tuesday I attended a session on election recount integrity. The panelists were Mark Halvorson (founder of Citizens for Election Integrity) and Jason Torchinsky (a lawyer who represents candidates in recounts), Minnesota Senator Katie Sieben was the moderator. The session addressed many issues concerning best practices for recounts, especially hand counting vs. machine counting, the importance of having a paper trail even with electronic polling stations, and the conditions necessary for a candidate to call for a recount or for an automatic recount to take place. They mentioned many factors that could change election results in a recount such as machine counting errors, the inclusion of absentee ballots that had erroneously been rejected, and even misplaced boxes of ballots that had not been counted. The panelists also discussed some Minnesota-specific laws and practices including the use of paper ballots and optical scanners, a .25% or less victory margin required for calling a statewide recount, mandatory hand counting of ballots in a recount, and the specifics of the recount in the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. Halvorson and Torchinsky had some disagreements on best practices and polling methods, but both agreed that recounts are a complicated process that need to be taken seriously in order to establish citizens’ trust in election results.