Minnesota, are you ready for a recount?
Minnesota election officials say a recount is possible in Aug. 14 primary election state Supreme Court races.
Four years ago, Minnesotans endured a lengthy U.S. Senate recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. Two years ago it was a shorter process between governor candidates Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer.
But lost among the hubbub created by those races was a statewide 2008 primary election recount in a state Supreme Court race.
In the first statewide recount in years, incumbent Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea easily won the three-way primary race, but Jill Clark and Deborah Hedlund were so close that state law required a recount. Hedlund won the primary recount over Clark but lost the general election to Gildea.
This year, Clark again challenges now-Chief Justice Gildea. Dan Griffith also is on the ballot.
"It is almost exactly the same dynamic," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. "And it is Gildea again."
The same situation presents itself in another Supreme Court race, in which Justice David Stras faces Alan Nelson and Tim Tingelstad.
Ritchie, the state's top elections officer, said the fact that in each race two little-known challengers face a better-known incumbent could result in tight returns for the No. 2 slot. The top two vote-getters in the high court races will face off on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The reason that Ritchie and others expect a close race for the second spot is that when voters do not know the candidates, they tend to vote randomly.
While the secretary is not predicting a recount, veteran election officials told him it is possible. "There is no predicting until the end of the day on primary day."
If there is a recount, it needs to be wrapped up by Aug. 27, which Ritchie says is the final day decisions can be made before Nov. 6 ballots are printed.
Ritchie often has said the 2008 Supreme Court recount provided what proved to be valuable practice for the Senate recount, which stretched through June of 2009.