County ballots locked in vault for safe keeping

Published 6:49 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mower County officials found a solution for safeguarding ballots from last week’s election leading up to three recounts.

Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh had the ballots placed in the treasurer’s vault in the Mower County Government Center, and a locksmith changed the combination on the safe so no county employees can enter the facility without calling the locksmith to open the vault.

Representatives for Republican Rich Murray, who holds a slim lead over DFLer Robin Brown in House District 27A, had been at Groh’s office ensuring the ballots safety. However, the representatives left after the ballots were locked in the vault.

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“We’re totally comfortable with what Doug’s doing here,” Murray said at a canvassing board meeting Tuesday afternoon. “He’s done a fine job here, and he’s been very professional putting up with the extra stress that we’ve put on him.”

With the ballots secure, Groh no longer has to take measures in his office to safeguard the ballots.

On Tuesday, the county board passed a policy to allow Groh to hire a temporary ballot guard — likely an election judge — to guard the ballots with Murray’s officials in the office. However, those services will not be needed with the ballots secured.

The plan had been for the vault to remain locked until the recount for the 27A race and the Minnesota governor’s race at 8 a.m. Nov. 29, but the vault will be opened prematurely Saturday for the recount in the Austin mayoral race. Austin City Clerk Lucy Johnson said the initial mayoral recount will not affect any ballots in the 27A race.

Last week, the ballots were stored in a vault in the auditor treasurer’s office, but that proved problematic because it has two entrances. Groh installed a policy to ensure that no person was ever in the vault alone.

A data entry error in the number of voters that caused the canvassing board meeting to be postponed was corrected before the meeting. The error did not affect the vote totals in any races, according to Groh.