Recount! A 50-State Survey

November 15, 2010

It appears that Minnesota voters are in for another recount.  The state gubernatorial election ended with the two leading vote-getters, Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer, separated by less than one-half of one percent. If the percentage remains less than one-half of one percent following certification by the State Canvassing Board, an automatic recount pursuant to Minnesota Statute § 204C.35 is triggered.  The last state-wide automatic recount came in 2008, when the battle between Senator Al Franken and former Senator Norm Coleman for a seat in the U.S. Senate did not end until nearly eight months after the election.

Being a Minnesota resident, the existence of this automatic recount statute was not news to me.  And, it’s not an uncommon research issue. So, my colleagues and I began to search for a 50-state survey.  The easiest place to look is the 50 State Surveys (SURVEYS) database, but we didn’t find a survey.  We did locate the Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (CEIM) website.  The nonprofit was formed after the 2004 election:

We were troubled by reports of electronic voting problems, the disenfranchisement of minority voters, discarded ballots and other voting irregularities. Our initial focus was supporting the Ohio recount to which we sent nine observers from Minnesota.

The site has a searchable database for recount laws.  We sorted for Initiating Method by Close Vote Margain and voila!  We found the CEIM very helpful and they appear to be doing great work but we did supplement with a few Westlaw queries including :

Texts and Periodicals: TP-ALL

Query: automatic! mandat! compulsory necess! requir! /5 re-count! /p percent!

Combined Statutes Annotated: ST-ANN-ALL

Query: AUTOMATIC! MANDAT! COMPULSORY NECESS! REQUIR! SHALL /10 RE-COUNT! & PERCENT!.

50-STATE SURVEY and WESTCHECK REPORT

We also considered the status of the exsisting statutes.  In the short time we had, we generated a 50-state survey and ran it through BriefTools (inserts Westlaw links and KeyCite flags):

Automatic Recounts (pdf)

Several statutes had pending or new legislation.  So,  we ran a WestCheck report which lists the proposed/adopted legislation:

Westcheck Report for Auto-Recount Stats (pdf)

Disclaimer: We believe these reports are complete.  They are fun for us to produce. But, we constructed them during our busy day-jobs.  These reports did not get the rigorous editiorial review the documents in the SURVEYS and REG-SURVEYS enjoy.