Time publishes brief history of recounts





Most political experts expect the Minnesota election to be decided in the courts or even in the state senate. In short, it's a mess. But it's not that unusual. A look back at some similarly close — and even closer — races provides some lessons on where things might go in the Minnesota contest, the only remaining undecided 2008 Senate race. (Republican Saxby Chambliss thumped Democratic challenger Jim Martin in a Dec. 2 runoff.)

The closest Senate race in history — for an open New Hampshire seat in 1974 — was so tight that the candidates had to hold a second election. After Republican Louis Wyman beat Democrat John Durkin by just 355 votes, a recount gave Durkin the lead — but by only 10 votes, which meant another recount. This count gave the election back to Wyman — by two votes. Durkin asked the Senate — which had a convenient 60-vote Democratic majority — for a review of the results. Despite six weeks of debate, the Senate couldn't resolve the matter, and the two candidates agreed to run all over again. With record turnout, Durkin won by some 27,000 votes — showing how recounts can and do overturn election results.

As for Minnesota history, one notable recount case stands above all others. In the state's 1962 gubernatorial race, incumbent Elmer L. Andersen lost by a narrow margin of less than 200 votes to challenger Karl Rolvaag (out of 1.26 million votes cast). Andersen asked for a recount, which required some 100 teams of ballot reviewers to fan out across the state. The recount took 139 days, and the final tally gave the election to Rolvaag by 91 votes, but not before Andersen had already been sworn in as governor — albeit provisionally. Fortunately for Rolvaag, and for the state, Andersen let his opponent in on official business during the recount waiting period so when Rolvaag took over the reins in March 1963, the transition was smooth and drama-free.



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