Olmsted County’s actions for establishing its absentee ballot board was vindicated in a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling seven months after November's election.
The court ruled Monday that the Minnesota Voter Alliance and others failed to show that county and city governing bodies violated the law when appointing deputy county auditors and deputy city clerks to absentee ballot boards.
The challenge against Olmsted County was one of four cases filed as cities and counties were preparing plans to review an increased number of absentee ballots cast because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.
Ramsey County and Duluth were also part of the case in which the Minnesota Voter Alliance, the Republican Party of Minnesota and several individuals objected to how absentee ballot review boards were created to oversee the review of questioned ballots. A suit also was brought against Minneapolis but there was no mention of it in Monday’s ruling.
In Olmsted County, the review process was initially set to be handled by county staff, but other election judges were added to the board in October in an effort to balance political perspectives.
At the time, Mark Krupski, Olmsted County’s director of property records and licensing operations, said it was difficult to find willing workers for the daily reviews, even with lists available from the local Democrat and Republican parties.
“We reached out to well over 100 people on the lists,” he said of the work that found eight initial judges, four from each party.
With the individual cases combined for an August hearing, the alliance’s demand for changes was denied a month later.
In arguing that the three governmental agencies violated election laws, the MVA and others argued on appeal that the state’s election laws were violated in three ways: that the three agencies failed to exhaust major-political-party lists of potential election judges when appointing deputies to the absentee ballot boards; they did by not appoint “bona fide” deputy county auditors and deputy city clerks to the absentee ballot boards; and they failed to obtain a statement of party affiliation from the deputies appointed by respondents to the absentee ballot boards, according to the ruling.
The state’s Court of Appeals first had to decide if the case was moot since the election was over, but it noted future absentee ballot boards would be established with limited time for additional review.
“We are persuaded that the issues presented are capable of repetition yet evading review,” the ruling reads.
In making its decision, the high court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the request to take action since the alliance and others failed to establish that local government bodies had violated “any clearly imposed duty when appointing members to their ballot boards.”