Unofficial tally posted: Mitchell ahead by 53 votes
For about 3 1/2 hours Wednesday, Melanie Ford had the satisfaction of knowing she worked hard enough to move from the ranks of the politically unknown to capturing enough votes to become St. Louis County attorney.
For about 3½ hours Wednesday, Melanie Ford had the satisfaction of knowing she worked hard enough to move from the ranks of the politically unknown to capturing enough votes to become St. Louis County attorney.
Then a 500-vote error was discovered that put St. Louis County Attorney Alan Mitchell ahead of Ford, 39,951 to 39,818.
The drama continued Thursday when two more vote-recording mistakes were found. They benefited Ford, but not enough to knock Mitchell out of the lead.
With unofficial results filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, Mitchell's apparent win hangs by the slimmest 53-vote thread.
This would be his eighth four-year term in office.
On Thursday Ford picked up 60 votes misread from a spreadsheet of Hibbing totals. The current 53-vote difference is out of more than 80,000 votes cast in the race, including 250 write-ins.
That means Mitchell apparently got 49.88 percent of the vote and Ford 49.81 percent.
Ford said "an emotional roller coaster ride" would be a good way to describe her feelings the past couple of days.
"I went from longshot to here we don't know who our next county attorney is going to be; I have to be proud of that fact," Ford said.
If the final official vote margin is less than half of 1 percent -- as it now appears it will be -- Ford would be able to ask the county auditor to recount the votes.
That's a decision she said she hadn't yet made Thursday. However, she said she's heard from countless supporters who are encouraging her to do so.
"They say that I ran a great campaign and they're very proud of having supported me," she said.
Ford thought that she had won the race about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday when the Secretary of State's Web site showed her as the unofficial winner with 100 percent of St. Louis County precincts reporting.
But Ford learned about the new vote totals when a News Tribune reporter called shortly before 2:30 p.m.
"I knew it was going to be a close race -- too close to call -- but I didn't have an inkling it was going to go on several days after the election," Ford said.
Paul Tynjala, St. Louis County director of elections, said his staff triple-checked vote totals. The canvassing board will meet Monday to adopt the final results. The board is made up of County Auditor Don Dicklich, St. Louis County Court Administrator Cindy Stratioti, Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson and St. Louis County Commissioners Bill Kron and Steve O'Neill.
Tynjala said that if Ford requests a recount it would take about four days to hand-count the ballots.
MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at email@example.com .