Updated: 10/31/2012 3:32 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert
Spurred to action by two high-profile statewide recounts in the past two general elections, the major political parties in Minnesota are assembling armies of lawyers for Election Day to look for "shenanigans" at the polls and to mount a vigorous defense should the election be thrown into overtime yet again.
"We have to be prepared. We have to be ready," Pat Shortridge, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said in an interview Tuesday.
Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota DFL party, echoed those sentiments declaring, "we are going to do more than we've ever done before in this state" to prepare for Election Day, now just one week away.
Neither chairman would disclose the precise numbers of volunteer attorneys, recruited election judges, or hand-picked poll watchers, lest it give the other side an advantage. But Martin, who led John Kerry's effort in Minnesota during the 2004 presidential race, said this year's army of lawyers would exceed the 600 he assembled eight years ago.
"That kind of investment in both human resources and monetary resources pays huge gains for us in the end," Martin said at DFL headquarters in St. Paul.
In 2008, DFL Senate candidate Al Franken appeared to have lost to incumbent U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman before a recount flipped the result and found Franken to have won. In 2010, a statewide recount confirmed DFLer Mark Dayton beat Republican Tom Emmer for the governor's office.
In a tacit acknowledgment that his party may have been out-worked in certain areas in previous years, Shortridge conceded the DFL party "certainly had a better system for having Democrat election judges in precincts across the state."
This cycle, however, Shortridge said his team is "better prepared," having recruited more election judges "than ever before."
"We just want to make sure that the rules are being applied consistently so that we have a fair, honest, and transparent election day without any shenanigans," said Shortridge at GOP headquarters a block away from the Capitol.
Both parties planned to have Election Day hotlines connected directly to attorneys for volunteers to call if they suspected problems at precincts.
The Republican Party is calling its effort a "voter integrity operation."
The DFL, with a room of 20 white phones already lined up, describes its efforts as an "election protection program."