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Federal judge upholds Minnesota’s extended ballot counting

A federal judge has upheld a Minnesota state court agreement that allows counting of absentee ballots received up to seven days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

Posted: Oct 12, 2020 9:20 AM
Updated: Oct 12, 2020 11:22 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge has upheld a Minnesota state court agreement that allows counting of absentee ballots received up to seven days after Election Day.

Republicans had asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel to block the seven-day extension that Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon agreed to in state court after a citizens’ rights group cited concerns about voter safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballots still must be postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted.

But Brasel ruled late Sunday night that the plaintiffs in the case — state Rep. Eric Lucero and another Republican who serves as an elector in the presidential election — don't have standing and denied their motion for a preliminary injunction. She said giving voters conflicting information after absentee ballots have gone out would create confusion.

“This is a difficult genie to put back in the lamp,” Brasel ruled.

Messages left Monday with Lucero and the Republican Party were not immediately returned, but attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a notice saying they will appeal.

Richard Fiesta, executive director of the citizens' group, the Alliance for Retired Americans, called it “an important common sense voting rights victory."

“Thousands of older Minnesota voters can protect their health and cast a ballot that will be counted. As in any election, the rights of voters to cast their ballots in the least burdensome manner is paramount. This decision furthers that ability," Fiesta said.

Before the consent decree, state law required absentee ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Now, that's the deadline for the postmark. The consent decree includes a provision that says if a mailed ballot is missing a postmark, election officials should presume it was mailed by Election Day unless evidence shows otherwise.

Brasel's decision to keep the extension intact comes just days after a federal appeals court blocked a similar extension in Wisconsin — a win for Republicans who have fought attempts to expand voting across the country. The Minnesota plaintiffs had pointed to that ruling to bolster their case.

A majority of states require mail-in ballots to be received by Election Day, while others accept them days or even weeks later if they are postmarked by Election Day. Tens of millions of Americans are likely to vote by mail this year because of concerns about coronavirus exposure at polling places.

The federal lawsuit in Minnesota was filed by Lucero and GOP activist James Carson, who both would participate in the Electoral College if President Donald Trump carries Minnesota. Their lawsuit, backed by the conservative-leaning Honest Elections Project, argued that the extension violates federal law that establishes Nov. 3 as the date of the 2020 election.

Attorneys for the state said the extension should stay in place, arguing that blocking it would create confusion and likely disenfranchise voters who are relying on instructions they have already received about deadlines for returning ballots by mail.

Brasel rejected a variety of claims from the plaintiffs in ruling against their request to stop the extended counting, including their assertion that it would dilute the value of their own votes by counting “unlawful” ballots after Election Day. She also rejected their claim that the consent decree created chaos and uncertainty, ruling that information about the new absentee process had been clearly communicated to voters.

“In reality, the Electors are in danger of creating confusion rather (than) avoiding” it, Brasel wrote.

Trump narrowly missed winning Minnesota in 2016 and had vowed in 2020 to become the first Republican to capture the state since Richard Nixon in 1972. But recent polls have showed Joe Biden leading, and Trump's campaign has scaled back some TV ad buys in the state.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
Rochester
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