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3 December 2012

Welch requests a recount — may earn a failing grade in math


Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau was re-elected on 6 November, defeating her Republican challenger, Sandy Welch, by 2,231 votes, a margin of 0.476 percent. That put her in the “you can have a recount if you pay for it” window — and today, simultaneously exercising that right and questionable judgment, Welch filed for a recount.

I doubt she has a snow cone’s chance in Beelzebub’s barbecue pit of prevailing. Welch, of course, thinks her odds are better than that.

According to wire service writer Matt Brown:

“There were some pretty significant problems,” Welch said Monday. “We are aware of instances where there were significant errors made in counting ballots and this is the best process to confirm this.”

She added that there was no evidence or fraud or other foul play: “It just seems more along the lines of error, and it’s because of the number of different errors that we think they can accumulate to make this a win for us,” she said.

Let’s put this in perspective. In the 2008 senate election in Minnesota, Al Franken trailed Norm Coleman by 215 votes after 2.8 million votes were counted. Franken won the recount by just over 300 votes because the recount found hundreds of ballot that were cast legally but wrongly rejected by local elections officials.

Perhaps Welch will make a similar claim, but so far she seems to believe that enough counting errors occurred to flip the election’s outcome. The errors would have to be systemic, as random errors likely would be evenly distributed between the two candidates.

Rob Ritchie, a recount expert at Fair Vote, told Brown that:

There’s been no statewide recount that’s resulted in a margin that’s remotely near this margin. Unless there’s fraud — a real distortion from someone cheating — it probably won’t be there.

So why is Welch — a former math teacher — opting for a recount she ought to know she’s less likely to win than the Irish Sweepstakes? Possibly, she really does believe she can win, either on the basis of hope run amok or on information not yet disclosed to the public. But I suspect the real reason Welch and her party are taking odds so long is because a win would put two Republicans on the state’s five-person land board. That would make practical campaigns to lobby governor-elect Steve Bullock as the swing vote on controversial development issues. From the GOP’s perspective, there’s no downside to rolling the dice when getting lucky produces such a huge reward.