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Minnesota elector gives Edwards a vote; Kerry gets other nine
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Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and Tony Kielkucki, deputy secretary of state for elections, counted Minnesota's electoral votes (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP)- One of Minnesota's 10 presidential electors broke from the pack and cast a vote Monday for John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential running mate for John Kerry. The other nine Minnesota members of the Electoral College voted for Kerry, who won the state's popular vote in November.

After the state's Electoral College ceremony concluded, no one stepped foward as the Edwards voter. Most electors chalked the vote up as a mistake rather than a purposeful political statement.

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"I'm sure somebody made a mistake," said elector Michael Meuers of Bemidji. "I'm certainly glad that the Electoral College is not separated by one vote."

Republican George W. Bush is due to receive 286 electoral votes; Kerry was slated to get 252, but the Minnesota vote will reduce that total. It takes 270 votes to win the presidency.

Electors around the country meet in state capitols on the same day to vote.

Minnesota's voting began shortly after noon. Electors wrote their candidate's name on an 8½-inch-by-11-inch sheet of paper and put the ballots in a pine box. Once all votes were in, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and an aide pulled them out, counted them and announced the total. A tally sheet was sent to Congress, which announces nationwide totals in January.

It may never be known who cast the Edwards ballot. The ballots aren't signed.

Kiffmeyer, a Republican, said she was shocked to see the Edwards vote when counting the ballots. She also thought that it was in error.

"It just shows the humanness of the process," she said. Even if an elector came foward to admit a mistake, it is too late to change the ballot, she said.

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Edwards received all 10 Minnesota votes for vice president in a separate round of balloting.

Electoral votes in Minnesota - and most other states - are awarded based on the popular vote winner. In November, Kerry received 1,445,014 to Bush's 1,346,695.

In October, The Associated Press contacted electors and was able to reach all 10 Republicans and eight of 10 on the Democratic roster. All said they would unequivocally support their party's candidate if called on to vote.

Minnesota is not among the states where parties require their electors to take formal pledges that they'll back the ticket. In some states, electors can be hit with fines and misdemeanors for bucking the popular vote.

Faithless electors, as defectors are known, are rare. The last case like this was in 1988, when West Virginia elector voted for Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen over presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. She then backed Dukakis for vice president.

The Web site of the nonprofit Center for Voting and Democracy which documents faithless electors in history doesn't show any previous incidents involving Minnesota electors. Neither did several other Web sites on the topic.

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