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Court upholds Duluth's absentee ballot review

The Minnesota Voters Alliance unsuccessfully took its challenge all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

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DULUTH — The Minnesota Supreme Court has absolved the city of Duluth of wrongdoing in its handling of absentee ballots in the 2020 election.

In a decision handed down Wednesday, the court upheld an earlier ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that concluded the Minnesota Voters Alliance failed to show the city of Duluth — and a handful of other local government jurisdictions, including Ramsey and Olmsted counties — had made improper appointments to their absentee ballot boards.

The claim hinged on the Alliance’s contention that those boards primarily should be staffed by a balanced number election judges appointed from party-supplied lists of candidates who have declared their political affiliation.

But in many cases, an insufficient number of these candidates are willing or able to fill the role, and state statute says local absentee ballot boards also “may include deputy county auditors or deputy city clerks who have received training in the processing and counting of absentee ballots.”

The Alliance had argued the political affiliations of these individuals should also be declared, disclosed and taken into account. The court disagreed.

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As a result, both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the Alliance’s request for a writ of mandamus.

In its decision the Supreme Court wrote: “The Alliance did not make any allegations of misconduct, fraud or negligence by any members of any absentee ballot boards. Nor did it present any evidence of the same. Rather, the Alliance’s petitions concerned who had been appointed to the absentee ballot boards."

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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