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Olmsted County count verifies targeted election results

Election judges found a single mismarked ballot in the hand count of four randomly selected precincts as part of the effort to confirm the accuracy of voting machines.

Post Election Review
Ballots from randomly-selected precincts are manually recounted at the Olmsted County Elections office as part of the Post Election Review on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — A single mismarked ballot was discovered Tuesday morning during the Olmsted County hand count of election results in four randomly selected precincts.

“The X barely grazed the box,” said election judge and Olmsted County Ballot Board member Larry Mattson of the voter’s mark.

What would have been another vote in Democrat Jeff Ettinger’s bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep Brad Finstad in Minnesota’s First Congressional District wasn’t counted on Election Day because the voter didn’t mark the selection in a way that was readable by the voting machine.

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A team of 12 election judges found the error Tuesday as they worked in smaller teams of two to check and hand count ballots.

“You are reviewing the ballot as it’s marked,” Olmsted County Elections Manager Luke Turner told the election judges as they started working at 9 a.m.

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Ninety minutes later, Turner reported the mismarked ballot to a dozen county residents who were at the county election center to watch the hand count of the congressional and governor races.

Post Election Review
Luke Turner, Olmsted County elections manager, oversees the manual recounting of ballots from randomly-selected precincts at the Olmsted County Elections office as part of the Post Election Review on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

The ballot from Precinct 9 in Rochester Ward 3 won’t be added to the official results, and Turner said the obvious voter error means it doesn’t spur a need for additional hand counting of ballots.

Hand counts of ballots from Precinct 11 in Rochester Ward 2, New Haven Township and the Olmsted County portion of Pine Island produced no discrepancies when compared to the machine counts from Election Day.

Turner said discrepancies that couldn’t be explained by voter error would have led to a recount of more ballots.

As it happened, the entire process to check two races took nearly three hours with approximately 2,800 total ballots reviewed from among the 68,440 cast countywide in the Nov. 8 election.

Mattson, who serves as a Republican election judge, said the review of absentee and Election Day ballots went as expected and the hand count matches the results from the Election Night machine counts.

“That should give people some reassurance that the process is being done properly,” he said.

Post Election Review
Ballots from randomly-selected precincts are manually recounted at the Olmsted County Elections office as part of the Post Election Review on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Fellow Republican John Howie, who also served as an election judge on the county’s ballot board, agreed with the assessment after helping in the hand count.

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“(It was) highly above board and very efficient and exactly how it should go,” he said.

Roger Mueller, who was joined by several members of the Olmsted County Elections Integrity Group he leads, declined to comment on the process after the review.

Three members of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters also attended the count as part of a statewide effort with Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota.

The organization had representatives auditing 11 reviews Tuesday and reported all were conducted in a professional manner.

Tuesday’s Olmsted County count was the final required county-level review for the election before the Minnesota Secretary of State confirms the official results.

Post Election Review
Ballots from randomly-selected precincts are manually recounted at the Olmsted County Elections office as part of the Post Election Review on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Post Election Review
Ballots from randomly-selected precincts are manually recounted at the Olmsted County Elections office as part of the Post Election Review on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Post Election Review
Ballots from randomly-selected precincts are manually recounted at the Olmsted County Elections office as part of the Post Election Review on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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