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Recount yields no change in auditor/treasurer results

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Election officials at work are Edward Lewis (left) and Deb Folkestad at the recount Wednesday at the Wadena County Courthouse. Observing are Kyra Ladd (from left) Jan Roers, Judy Taves and Daniel Touchette. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal 2 / 3
Election officials Edward Lewis (left) and Deb Folkestad count ballots while others including election coordinator Joy Weyer (in background) observe the process. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal3 / 3

A dozen individuals were tasked with assisting in the recounting of Wadena County's 25 voting precincts by hand Wednesday morning at the Wadena County Courthouse. The end result showed no difference from the Aug. 14 results as incumbent Judy Taves missed a spot on the November ballot by just two votes.

Following the announcement of no change, Taves thanked all the officials for their work in the recount, which took about six and a half hours to complete. Commenting afterwards, Taves had nothing negative to say about the process.

"I appreciate very much the time put in," Taves said.

Taves felt the rules were followed and had no challenges as the recount was completed.

Taves said she was hoping to get on the ballot but believes in the democratic process.

"This is the will of the voters and I support that," Taves said.

The results of the recount still must go before the canvassing board to be certified, which takes place Friday morning. If certified, it means Brian Hagen and Heather Olson will be the two on the November ballot. Taves continues working in her position through the remainder of the year.

This race was a strong reminder of how every vote counts, as just one vote difference could have resulted in a tie, and two votes could have meant a different victor.

The recount process

Continuous counting, keeping the precincts separate along with election votes, and absentee votes and making sure all rules were followed proved to be a tedious task as the job started at 8 a.m. and continued on into the afternoon.

Every ballot was counted by two teams, first by Team 1, including tally official Edward Lewis, who was watched closely by ballot reader observers including Daniel Touchette and Deb Folkestad. Others on hand included ballot reader Loyd Lanz and tally official Steven Fah. Recount coordinator and Wadena city administrator Janette Bower got the job of reading off who the votes belonged to. Once counts were complete, Team 2 went through them including tally officials Jan Roers and Keri Jacobson Jensen and ballot reader Jayne Koranda.

While candidate Brian Hagen was not at the meeting, incumbent Judy Taves was on hand and closely watched the process.

During the process of the count, one question came up concerning Thomastown Township, where the vote machine tape read 124 votes but during the recount, only 123 votes were counted. This resulted in no change to the votes of the two candidates.

The rules of a recount are specific including the use of tables and where votes are to be placed in the process of counting. Each election official has a specific job, whether it's counting, watching or guarding the votes with their lives.

Aside from those with their hands on the ballots, also on hand were Wadena County Attorney Kyra Ladd and election coordinator Joy Weyer. While officials were allowed restroom breaks every couple hours, by Minnesota law, "Recount officials may not take a break for a meal or for the day prior to the completion of sorting, counting, review and labeling of challenges, and secure storage of the ballots for any precinct. All challenged ballots must be stored securely during breaks in the counting process."

In the initial ballot count portion of the recount, there were no challenges to the counts.

In the second portion of the count, tallies were taken for each candidate, again involving the eight officials. Bower took those numbers and added them to find—the numbers were unchanged.

Recounts don't happen often around here, but former election coordinator Roslie Miller noted that one of the more notable recounts in Wadena County's past involved the Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman in 2008. That involved a legal battle lasting over eight months.