Senate election trial court says system’s OK, won’t review most kinds of ballots

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The three judges who will decide whether Norm Coleman prevails in his election contest of Minnesota’s Senate recount limited their scope late today by ruling out re-examination of at least 12 out of 19 ballot categories.

“[T]he facts presented thus far do not show a wholesale disenfranchisement of absentee voters in the 2008 general election,” the judges wrote in a 17-page order and memorandum (pdf). “[T]here is no systemic problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures.”

At a hearing Thursday, former Sen. Norm Coleman had argued that most kinds of ballots in the court’s 4,800-ballot pool be counted, while challenger Al Franken — who still holds a 225-vote lead from the recount — had argued for far fewer.

The upshot, according to The UpTake, is that the court’s pool has been cut to about 3,500 ballots — with the onus on Coleman to show ballots were lawfully cast, not only wrongfully rejected.

In ruling categories of rejected ballots out of further examination, the judges said that non-registered voters’ votes were not cast legally, even if the voters’ failure to register was somehow the fault of election officials.

The same goes for absentee ballots from voters who one way or another didn’t meet legal requirements; ballots for which registration and ballot envelope addresses don’t match; ballots for which the voter didn’t sign the application or return envelope; and ballots for which a notarization doesn’t carry a stamp or seal. They are not, in the court’s view, legally cast.

Nor are ballots legal for two other categories: those from voters not registered in the precinct for which the ballot was submitted and absentee ballots received past legal deadlines.

Here are the seven kinds (some reports read the court order as saying six) of previously rejected absentee ballots the court appears to have ruled today that it may examine. Ballots that were:

– Returned by a non-registered voter in an absentee ballot return envelope on which no box in the proof of residence portion of the envelope is checked by the witness.

– Cast by a voter registered and eligible to vote in a precinct who was issued a ballot for the wrong precinct due to an official error.

– Submitted from overseas where there is no evidence that the voter submitted a Federal Post Card Application or absentee ballot application.

– Cast by a voter where there is no independent evidence that the voter completed an absentee ballot application.

– Submitted in an absentee ballot return envelope in which the witness certification is signed by a non-notary witness who failed to provide a street address.

– Submitted within a non-registered voter absentee ballot return envelope on which the voter failed to sign the certification’s signature box but did sign the envelope elsewhere.

– Cast by a non-registered voter who was not registered to vote in the precinct encompassing the voter’s address on the absentee ballot return envelope and absentee ballot application.

– Cast by a voter not registered to vote within the precinct in which he or she resides.

Here are the 12 kinds (though some reports say 13) of rejected absentee ballots summarized above that the court ruled today it won’t examine. They include ballots that were:

– Submitted by a voter in an absentee ballot return envelope on which the voter’s address is not the same as the information provided on the absentee ballot application.

– Submitted by a voter in absentee ballot return envelope in which the witness certification on the absentee ballot return envelope is signed by a person identified as a notary public but no notarial seal or stamp is affixed to the envelope.

– Cast by a non-registered voter who hasn’t submitted proper voter registration materials even if the voter wasn’t issued materials due to an official error.

– Submitted by a voter in an absentee ballot return envelope in which the voter failed to sign the certificate of eligibility on the absentee ballot return envelope where a sticker placed by election officials obstructs the certificate or signature block.

– Cast by a voter whose absentee ballot application does not contain a signature.

– Submitted by a non-registered voter who failed to sign voter-registration materials.

– Cast by a voter whose absentee ballot application was signed by another unless the application was signed by another individual in accordance with Minn. Stat. 645.44, subd. 14.

– Submitted from overseas but arrived late.

– Dropped off on Election Day in person.

– Dropped off by a proper agent on Election Day but after the statutory deadline for delivery.

– Cast by a non-registered voter who has failed to register to vote.

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