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Editorial: Don't play politics with state recount

The effort to find Minnesota's next governor enters into the next stage after all 87 counties finished their canvassing of votes Friday. The State Canvassing Board will meet Nov. 23 to certify those votes, which most likely will trigger an automatic recount as the final tally shows a difference of less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, with 8,755 votes of 2.1 million cast.

Conventional wisdom will tell you that there just isn't enough margin out there to overcome that large a difference. Laws have been changed since the 2008 election and the drawn-out recount and legal challenge by Republican Norm Coleman into Democrat Al Franken's apparent win, especially in absentee ballots. There were only 3,000 absentee ballots this year statewide which were rejected for one reason or another, and even if all were to go to Republican Tom Emmer, Democrat Mark Dayton would still have a 5,700-vote margin.

There were limited reports of machine problems, but those were corrected and documented. There have been no horror stories so far this year, like the 2008 urban myth that an election judge had hundreds of uncounted ballots in the trunk of her car in Minneapolis, or of scores of absentee ballots rejected because someone ruled their signature didn't look right.

State laws were changed, and the system works, and we need to let it play out as the state's counties hand-count 2.1 million ballots to confirm Election Day totals.

That's why it concerns us that, for whatever reason, Republicans are posturing for a legal challenge after the recount is certified. If the recount is challenged in court, the determination of who will be governor will not come until 2011, with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty apparently hanging on, with a Republican Legislature.

Both Pawlenty and new GOP legislative leaders have said it is not their intent to ramrod through legislation while they can, but Republican Party officials seem to have just that intent in mind. Key is a Jan. 15 deadline for the new governor to sign the agreement - or the current governor to ignore it as he has so far - allowing $1.4 billion in federal dollars to flow to Minnesota for an expanded Medicaid program.

Republican attorneys on Friday sued St. Louis and Pine counties, saying they are not responding quick enough to their request for data. But the data dump is enormous, and obviously a request one would make in preparing for a protracted court case.

It gives the impression of looking for problems where none exist, and dragging out a process that should end after every vote is recounted by hand and one candidate has more votes than the other.

Barring any as yet unforeseen examples of voter fraud involving thousands of ballots, there should be no need to continue past the mid-December target for completing the recount.