We continue the “Recount Ready” series and kick-off the new year today with Gary Poser, the Director of Elections in Minnesota’s Office of the Secretary of State. Gary serves on both the EAC Board of Advisors and the EAC Standards Board. Gary has nearly three decades of experience in election administration at the state and local levels in Minnesota, a state that is no stranger to high-profile close elections, recounts and election contests.
EAC: What do you wish you had known about recounts and election contests before you experienced one?
Poser: Have a draft plan prepared before election night to provide to media, candidates, and others if the results of a race are close. Showing that your plan was made prior to the election helps mitigate suspicion that the plan was made to favor a particular candidate. Provide information to those present at the beginning of the recount on how the process works, but be mindful that experienced candidates will have strategies on what they are watching for and may not show their hand until the middle of the recount, intending to throw their opponents into disarray. Don’t let their strategies affect your recount plan.
EAC: How did you handle the heightened scrutiny of the media and candidate supporters in the post-election period? What about rumors and false information?
Poser: We held regular press conferences and live-streamed meetings when challenged ballots were being decided. Copies of challenged ballots were made available on our website and displayed on overhead monitors during meetings.
EAC: What resources were available to you when interpreting relevant laws and regulations on recounts?
Poser: In-office counsel was available with the Attorney General’s office available on call. Much of the interpretation should be completed when you are drafting the recount plan prior to Election Day. Ask legal counsel the sticky questions on gray areas before they occur so you are prepared to answer when it arises.
EAC: How did post-election litigation or the threat of litigation affect your work?
Poser: If the race is close, there will be litigation regardless of what you do, so do what is right.
EAC: What advice would you give your fellow election officials about preparing for recounts and election contests?
Poser: Plan well ahead of Election Day.
EAC: What can election officials do to make sure their provisional and mail balloting processes hold up well under the intense spotlight of a close race and potential recounts or election contests?
Poser: Uniformity is key. Implement laws requiring uniformity and train your locals to implement processes uniformly. Document that you’ve trained local officials on the proper processes.
EAC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Poser: Plan, be fair and you will survive.
A big thank you to Gary for sharing his insights! Keep coming back to our blog this month to hear more from election officials about their experiences with close elections, recounts and election contests.