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Secretary of State seeks explanation for 171 misplaced ballots

The Minnesota Secretary of State's office sent a letter to Ramsey County seeking an explanation why 171 ballots were found in a voting machine's auxiliary compartment today, according to a release from the secretary's office.

Here is the text of a press release from the Secretary of State, released late Tuesday afternoon:

The Office of the Secretary of State is concerned to learn that 171 ballots from Maplewood Precinct 6 were found in a voting machine's auxiliary compartment (Tuesday). Under the guidelines established by the State Canvassing Board for this recount, all votes not rejected, should be included in recount totals. However, this office is concerned that election judges of both parties did not notice the significant difference between the number of voters and the number of ballots when they finalized the results on Election night.

This office has been proactive in repeatedly contacting the Deputy Recount Officials asking to re-check all machines, ballot boxes and ballot storage areas for all ballots cast by Minnesota voters in the Nov. 4 general election. Reminders were sent out immediately after the election and as recently as Nov. 25.

Given the magnitude of the difference, the Office of Secretary of State is asking Ramsey County for a detailed explanation as to how this error occurred and went unnoticed until now. This office is requesting that the county re-verify the number of individuals who voted in this precinct, to reassure both this office and the public that these newly found votes were validly cast.

The county is also being asked to recount the number of individuals who signed the roster of pre-registered voters as well as the roster of those who registered on Election Day. Those totals are to be added to the number of absentee ballots that were accepted in this precinct to calculate the total number of ballots that have been validly cast from this precinct.

Ramsey County has been asked to provide these totals along with a detailed explanation of what transpired regarding these ballots to the State Canvassing Board at its meeting next week.

Below is the language that was sent to election officials on Nov. 25:

At the request of the campaigns, we are asking counties and cities to make every effort to locate additional ballots when the number of ballots for the recount is less than the combined total of voters who signed the precinct roster and the number of absentee ballots received. If your cities are in control of the machine ballot boxes, please ask them to verify there are no additional ballots remaining in the boxes. Any searches should be conducted by two people and any found ballots should be immediately sealed in an envelope with signatures signed across the flap, and returned to the county auditor to be included in this recount.