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Minnesota Supreme Court orders Murray County to post notice regarding ballot errors

Ballots in Murray County advertised incorrect district numbers for candidates to the Minnesota Legislature, marking the third county impacted by erroneous ballots this election cycle.

Murray County stock
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SLAYTON, Minn. — A third Minnesota county has been ordered by the state’s Supreme Court to inform voters of an error within their ballots, even though the error won’t cause any disruptions to the counting process.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, the Minnesota Supreme Court publicly filed an order directing Murray County to notify all absentee voters and post notice at all polling places informing voters that the ballot contains incorrect district numbers for races to the Minnesota House and Senate.

Heidi Winter, auditor and treasurer of Murray County, said that after absentee ballots had been issued, a voter contacted her office regarding the error, which listed state legislative candidates as running for office in Minnesota Senate District 22 and House District 22A. The correct district numbers are 21 and 21A.

All other information on the ballots was correct.

In a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court dated Oct. 14, Winter noted that despite the incorrect legislative district markings, the ballots could be properly tallied without further issue. On Friday, she reaffirmed to Forum News Service that the county had conducted a thorough test on the ballots to ensure that votes could be properly counted.

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With Election Day just 17 days away from the date of the petition’s filing, Winter noted that the process of reprinting corrected ballots and distributing them to voters would have taken between 10 and 12 days, leaving voters a diminished window to return their ballots.

With all involved candidates in agreement to pardon the error, and with no added risk of miscounting, the high court approved the use of the incorrect ballots so long as the county prominently posts notice to all future voters.

With a population of roughly 8,200, Murray County, whose county seat of Slayton sits about 30 miles north of Worthington, had 4,201 ballots cast in 2018 — the most recent non-presidential election — for an overall county turnout of 80.7% of registered voters.

Not the first ballot error this cycle

According to Winter, Murray County’s ballots were produced by Minneapolis-based printing company SeaChange, who also printed erroneous ballots for at least two other Minnesota counties this election.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered relief for Kittson and Roseau counties in far northwestern Minnesota after their ballots were missing party affiliations for candidates in some races and missing the incumbency status of judicial candidates as required by law.

The two northwestern Minnesota counties petitioned the state’s Supreme Court after realizing the ballot was missing political affiliations for some candidates and failed to label others as incumbents.

Over 1,900 improper ballots had been sent out to absentee voters in Kittson and Roseau counties before officials discovered the error, forcing them to immediately suspend the issuance of any additional absentee ballots.

After petitioning to the state’s high court for relief — and speaking with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon and most of the involved candidates — the counties were ordered to secure corrected reprints for future voters, while allowing those who have already returned their ballots to invalidate them and fill out a corrected ballot.

Representatives from SeaChange were not immediately available to discuss how erroneous ballots were distributed to three counties or what actions may be taken to prevent ballot errors in future elections.

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A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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