1962 Gubernatorial Recount
In the 1962 race between Lt. Governor Karl Rolvaag and Governor Elmer Andersen, the usual stakes were raised just a little bit higher. It would be the first time in Minnesota’s history that the winner would hold a four-year term.
On Election Day, November 6, 1962, 60% of eligible voters—1.3 million—cast ballots in spite of a driving snowstorm in the northern part of the state. Forty percent of those votes were hand-cast ballots. The returns created a seesaw as they came in over the next two days. Initial official returns gave Rolvaag a 59-vote plurality.
The State Canvassing Board met on November 26 and immediately made things worse by splitting three ways on who won and how to proceed. The Supreme Court intervened, ordering the board to accept amended reports from ten counties. On December 3, Rolvaag filed a Notice of Contest with the Clerk of the District Court in Freeborn County beginning an unbelievably complicated political, legal, and physical process.
Chief Justice Oscar Knutson resented an implication in the national press that, since the majority of Supreme Court appointees had been promoted by Andersen, they would rule in his favor. Knutson directed both parties’ recount managers to name a mutually-agreeable three-judge panel to oversee the recount. The selection of Judges Sidney Kaner, J. H. Sylvestre, and Leonard Keyes was the single most important key to carrying out a just and orderly process. That panel, in turn, created 100 recount teams of three: a partisan for each side and an independent.
First both sides agreed that machine vote totals were correct. Then 97,000 hand ballots were challenged. Screening reduced the numbers to 22,000 and finally the three-judge panel was presented with 3,851 ballots for a trial that began on February 25. Disputed ballots were arranged into 24 categories—such as ballots marked for one candidate and third party candidate, Braatz or “unusual voting marks” like a star, that could be interpreted as an obliteration of an unintended vote.
On March 21, 1963, the three-judge panel issued an order to the Secretary of State, Joe Donovan, to issue a “Certificate of Election” to Rolvaag. A Certificate of Election was issued to Rolvaag on March 25 and he was sworn in at noon that day—139 days after he was elected.
GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:
- Recount, by Ronald F. Stinnett and Charles H. Backstrom.
Washington, D.C.: National Document Publishers, 1964.
Look at the Table of Contents.
MHS call number: JK 6152 1962 .S7.
- "The Recount Recounted: Minnesota Nightmare," by Robert A. Forsythe.
In Advance, vol. 2, no. 4 (summer 1963): pp. 43-47.
MHS call number: JK 6152 1962 .F67 1963.
- "Recounting the 1962 Recount: The Closest Race for Governor in Minnesota's History ," by Thomas J. Kelley.
In Ramsey County History, vol. 35, no. 2 (summer 2000): pp. 22-23.
MHS call number: Reading Room F 612 .R22 R3 v.35:2.
- 1963 Andersen-Rolvaag Election Recount
Minnesota Historical Society Library Acquisitions Curator Patrick Coleman explains the complicated events that led to the 1963 recount. A variety of vintage film footage from the KSTP-TV Archives shows the players in this drama, including Elmer Andersen, Karl Rolvaag, the voters, the judges and vote-counters, and even President Kennedy.
- DFL State Central Committee Records.
This archival collection (1943-1998) consists of records relating to the state Democratic party’s internal operations, organization, activities, programs, and policies, and its role in Minnesota politics. The "Campaign Miscellany and Voter Registration" series includes a file on the "Gubernatorial Recount, 1962-1963."
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed under Democratice-Farmer-Labor Party—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 77 boxes in the collection but only 1 relates to this topic), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
- Minnesota. Governor. Election Recount Records:
- Reports and Summaries, 1962.
Includes screening and inspectors’ reports, county statistical summaries, and miscellaneous records.
MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Governor, Election Recount Records—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 6 boxes).
- Rolvaag File, 1962.
Includes challenged ballots, inspectors’ oaths, recount forms, categorizing work sheets, investigations, ballot surveys, telephone reports, and screeners’ and inspectors’ reports.
MHS call number:See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Governor, Election Recount Records—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 20 boxes).
- Reports and Summaries, 1962.
- Minnesota. Secretary of State. Election Division. Miscellaneous Election Materials.
Miscellaneous State Canvassing Board materials, including 1962 recount files and abstracts from the Karl F. Rolvaag vs. Elmer L. Andersen gubernatorial election.
MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Secretary of State, Election Records—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 2 boxes in this collection but only 10 folders relate to this topic).
- Minnesota. State Auditor. Miscellaneous Records.
Miscellaneous records dealing with a variety of subjects, including the 1962 gubernatorial election recount expenses, listed in the inventory under "Reimbursement records, Governor election contest expenses, 1962-1963."
MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Auditor—for a detailed inventory of boxes and locator numbers (there are 7 boxes in this collection but only 3 folders relate to this topic), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
- Republican Party (Minn.). State Central Committee Records.
This archival collection (1935-1977) consists of records relating to the state Republican party’s internal operations, organization, activities, programs, and policies, and its role in Minnesota politics, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s. The collection includes recount files documenting the Republican side of the effort to establish the legal victor in the 1962 gubernatorial election.
The Gubernatorial Recout Files were created by the staff of the Republican Party's recount headquarters during the official recount of ballots and subsequent court trial. These files provide a comprehensive, in-depth picture of the Republican side of the effort to establish the legal victor in the 1962 Minnesota gubernatorial contest. In general, the materials are divided into three major categories: 1) background, informational, and housekeeping files, 2) ballot counting records, and 3) trial documents.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed under Republican Party (Minn.) State Central Committee—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 199 boxes in the collection but only boxes 105-119 relate to this topic).
- Ronald F. Stinnett Memorandum Regarding Karl F. Rolvaag Victory in Recount, 1962-1963.
Memorandum (4 pp., typed) describing necessity of a recount for Karl F. Rolvaag in the contested 1962 gubernatorial election.
MHS call number: P645; see the green Manuscripts "P" Notebooks for more details (there is one item in the collection).
- Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
- Minneapolis Star
- Minneapolis Tribune
- St. Paul Dispatch
- St. Paul Pioneer Press - including Patrick Coleman's "No, This Isn't an Opportunity to Steal a Minnesota Election," Nov. 19, 2008, a companion piece to the podcast listed above
- Any of the state's daily newspapers, such as the Winona Daily News, the Faribault Daily News, the Mesabi Daily News, etc. Use the library catalog to find a particular newspaper; limit your search under "MHS Catalog Options" to just Newspapers
- Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
- Check the library catalog for other materials.