He’s a go-to chairman about state elections policy. Now Joe Mansky is retiring.

As a hydrologist in his 20s, Joe Mansky knew zero about elections. He’d taken one domestic scholarship category in college, given he had to.

“They call a elections an random career. No one skeleton to be a elections director,” pronounced Patty O’Connor, a co-worker of Mansky’s who was elections executive in Blue Earth County for about dual decades.

Now, before Mansky’s retirement this month as Ramsey County elections manager after 35 years in a business, many acknowledge him as a state’s many widely famous elections official. A tie in a courtroom during crises, recounts and sequence changes, he’s warranted both indebtedness and ire.

“He brought Minnesota elections to a complicated age,” pronounced stream Secretary of State Steve Simon.

“He’s a legend,” pronounced former Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

“That competence have been one of a best decisions we made, was to sinecure Joe,” pronounced Joan Growe, former Minnesota secretary of state. Growe gave Mansky his initial shot during elections work in 1984.

“Joe Mansky’s long-standing loyalty to Minnesota elections is commendable,” pronounced Andrew Cilek of a Minnesota Voters Alliance, that has faced Mansky’s dialect in justice mixed times. “Although we have mostly been on conflicting sides of vicious issues, we wish him good in retirement.”


Mansky’s route to Minnesota was frequency paved with aspiration or well-laid plans.

With a grade in H2O resources management, Mansky spent his initial integrate of years out of college operative for a Missouri River Basin Commission in Nebraska.

But a classification closed. And so Mansky arrived in Minnesota in 1982, in a center of a misfortune retrogression in decades.

He was 28. He had no leads. If he’d been forced to concentration quite on pursuit prospects, he would’ve left to Colorado, like any essential hydrologist.

And yet, “I started cranky nation skiing when we was in Wisconsin, and this was a good place to ski.”

His initial pursuit was as an referee for a Minneapolis park system. The kids were great, though a parents? “Total pain in a ass,” Mansky said. He kept looking.

One day, he beheld a position posted with a secretary of state’s office. It was zero like what he’d finished or left to propagandize or lerned for. He shot a résumé off and forgot about it.

Several months later, he got a call. They’d interviewed 11 people before him; didn’t like any of them. With Mansky, they were scraping a bottom of a barrel.

He knew zero about choosing rules. So a night before, he spent hours in a University of Minnesota’s law library, cramming choosing law.

The subsequent morning, “I’m only banishment a answers behind during them,” Mansky said. Within a few days, he got an offer.

“He was smart, he was discerning and he wanted to learn. And he did. … He had a memory of an elephant,” pronounced Growe.

Mansky had a new title: choosing procedures adviser. In further to advising county officials — all comparison than he was — on all that law he’d evidently mastered, Mansky had to manage a vital transition.


The year was 1984. Across a state, there were 3 manifold ways people voted: punch cards, push machines and even – in some of a smaller, farming counties – a same elementary paper ballots they’d been regulating given Minnesota became a state.

Election stating and registration were dual other cans of worms.

Not all counties had preregistration; electorate had to infer they were authorised on Election Day.

After elections, formula were sent by snail mail. Not certified, of march — that took too long. Once, they had to send a Minnesota State Patrol to Marshall County during a final notation to hoard their reports.

The bottom line: Out of each 1,000 ballots, there were 5 errors. Thousands of votes in a statewide election. Worse were a absentee ballots. They had to reject about 5 percent of them.

Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky during his St. Paul bureau on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Mansky is timid soon. ( Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)


One day, Mansky beheld something in a distant dilemma of a bookkeeping department: an aged IBM PC XT — a first-generation personal computer. It had a dirt cover, and copiousness of dust.

“I’m not certain given it was there,” Mansky said. He’d nonetheless to declare anyone hold a singular key.

But as a former hydrologist, 4 years out of college, he was used to computers. This thing had a 10-megabyte tough drive, a 5½-inch floppy hoop — it had it all.

“I finally asked my boss, do we mind if we use this?”

Knock yourself out, his trainer replied.

Mansky used a mechanism to build a state’s primary canvassing house report, in his initial year on a job.

The subsequent primary, in 1986, arrived with a large thunderstorm. Rice County officials were transporting their ballots in a pickup lorry to a internal courthouse. All those finished punch cards, stored in an unblocked steel box.

“You see a problem,” Mansky said.

The county called Manksy in a tizzy. They had hundreds of soaked ballots.

“Put them in a microwave,” Mansky said. It seemed to work. Mansky still calls it his craziest choosing story.

He wouldn’t know that dual years later, staffers from secretaries of state offices opposite a nation would intersect on his office, to investigate his work.


In a months that followed, Mansky worked on removing computers to a 18 counties that didn’t have them, to start a statewide registration complement from scratch. Only dual states had finished it.

With computers? There was a post bureau for a reason.

And as distant as choosing night reporting, no state had a ability to get real-time results. Yet.

In Nov 1988, Minnesota was a initial to give it a hearing run.

“We were a small shaken that night,” Growe said. “That had never happened. … It was nasty weather. We didn’t have a really good backup for a system. Yes, a small nervous. We had guest from 6 or 7 other states.”

Within 15 to 20 mins of polls closing, Growe’s bureau started removing reports around a network. By 5:30 a.m., they had tangible results.

After that, Mansky achieved a repute opposite a state, Growe remembered. And soon, a mantra. “You improved call Joe,” Growe said. “That’s what we told people.”

That year, during a age of 34, Mansky was promoted to state elections director.

“I had no elections staff. No experience. Joe was a initial chairman I’d spin to,” pronounced O’Connor, who referred to Mansky as “a walking statute.”

Mansky also garnered a repute for his ability to extrapolate.

“Every once in a while (at a conference), he’d go, ‘I only have one thing to say,’ and a whole room will plaint given it’ll take a while,” pronounced O’Connor.

But people would listen. Decades later, when Ritchie ran for secretary of state in 2006, “People were all indicating to him,” Ritchie said.


After withdrawal Growe’s bureau in 1999 and afterwards doing redistricting for Gov. Jesse Ventura, Mansky took a pursuit during Ramsey County in 2002. Over a years, he became one of a many famous and quoted officials on a payroll — and mostly a face of argumentative choosing processes.

There was a 2008 Norm Coleman/Al Franken recount. Over 8 months, Mansky set a record for associated justice appearances.

He claims to have enjoyed it.

“You get sued a lot. That only comes with a territory,” Mansky said. “But we never covet anyone from perplexing to practice their rights.”

He’s mislaid a few, certainly. Recently, there was delight during a U.S. Supreme Court on a matter of voting attire. The justice tossed one of Mansky’s policies, alongside a state law it was formed on.

There was a ranked-choice rollout in St. Paul in 2011. Another recount, between Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer, for administrator a year before.


But when asked what stressed Mansky a most, it wasn’t all that. By then, he’d weathered decades of objections.

“The some-more stressful eventuality from my standpoint was a 1990 election,” Mansky said.

Republican gubernatorial claimant Jon Grunseth withdrew in a arise of a scandal. Mansky didn’t get a sequence from a state Supreme Court on who should reinstate Grunseth until a Friday before Election Day. Arne Carlson was placed on a list and went on to win a election.

A tighten second was a craft pile-up that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002, 10 days before a election, with 10,000 absentee ballots already in. After operative 24 hours true on Election Day, Mansky took a outing to Las Vegas.

“Are we entrance back?” his trainer asked.

“Having gotten by a 2002 year, a rest of it was totally upside,” Mansky said.


Mansky started his talk with a contributor articulate about his work, and a many essential resource.

“For us, time is positively critical. It is one of a few things that is positively set in stone.”

But it became apparent as a talk went on that he was no longer articulate about work. Mansky remarkable that he hasn’t had a day off given final July. It’s not unusual.

But each year, he goes biking somewhere. Last year, it was Utah. For years, if not decades, he’s biked to work from his home in Oakdale.

On his final trip, a convey motorist asked him something that took him aback.

“Are we retired?”

He was 64. No, he wasn’t retired, he fast replied. But on a approach behind to a Twin Cities — on Amtrak, with his bike — he found himself with that thing that was so elusive. Time.

“I finally came to a conclusion, I’ve been operative 41 years. And I’d rather spend some-more time on a trail, and reduction time sitting in an office,” pronounced Mansky, now 65.

Now, rather than 5 out of 1,000, there are maybe dual out of 10,000 errors in ballots. Absentee list rejecting is down to reduction than 1 percent.

When asked about a biggest plea his inheritor will face, Mansky talks not about stating or accuracy, though turnout.

“I consider a work remaining is to get in hit with a people who have been traditionally outward of a active partial of a voting population,” he said. “The universe belongs to those who uncover up.”

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