Judge Upholds Minnesota's Deadline Extension for Counting Mail-In Ballots

Judge Upholds Minnesota's Deadline Extension for Counting Mail-In Ballots
A voter leaves after filling out his ballot at the Beltrami County Administration building in Bemidji, Minn., on Sept. 18, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

A federal judge in Minnesota on Oct. 11 dismissed a lawsuit from a pair of Republican electors seeking to block mail-in ballots received a week after election night from being counted.

State Reps. Eric Lucero and James Carson, both Republican presidential electors, filed a lawsuit two weeks ago to challenge Minnesota's extended deadline for counting mail-in ballots. The extension allows election officials in Minnesota to count mail-in ballots showing up a week after Election Day, as long as those envelopes are postmarked by the eve of Nov. 3.

Ballots that arrive by mail would normally become invalid unless received by 8 p.m. on election night. In August, however, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon and several advocacy groups reached a deal to waive the requirement, citing health concerns linked to voting in person during a pandemic and an anticipated influx of mail-in ballots.

Minnesota's Republican legislators have criticized the changes ever since, calling the deal an invitation for voter fraud.

"This agreement threatens the integrity of the upcoming election, will result in widespread and severe vote dilution, will (at a minimum) create substantial uncertainty and delay over Minnesota's ability to certify its results, and casts in substantial doubt whether the United States Congress will even accept the results of the popular vote in Minnesota," the original lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit also contended that Simon doesn't have the constitutional authority to change presidential election rules in the first place.

"The Minnesota Secretary of State is neither Congress nor the Minnesota Legislature, yet he has agreed with private parties to rewrite the times and manner of elections in Minnesota," the lawsuit read. "This agreement, and the policies the Secretary is enforcing under it, are unconstitutional and preempted by federal law."

In her Oct. 11 ruling, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel rejected Lucero and Carson's request of blocking the deadline extension, saying that their allegations of voter fraud due to the counting of hypothetical unlawful ballots is a "generalized grievance," which doesn't stand.

According to Brasel, the two electors failed to show that they would be individually harmed by the change in ballot counting or had the right to challenge the constitutionality of the change.

"The Electors' claim rests upon the implied assumption that counting absentee ballots received after Election Day will decide the election against their candidate," Brasel wrote. "The Court cannot find standing in an implied and theoretical assumption."

The Republican Party of Minnesota has appealed Brasel's decision to a federal appeals court.