35 votes to be thrown out in Alexandria-area House race

A Douglas County judge ruled today that there was an obvious error in a Minnesota house race that is headed for a recount.

Douglas County Judge David Battey ruled that 35 votes were improperly cast in the race between Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, and Democrat Bob Cunniff. Ballots were wrongly given to voters who lived outside the district.

The judge ruled that Douglas County Elections officials now have to correct the error. Douglas County Auditor Charlene Rosenow says the Douglas County Canvassing Board will randomly withdraw 35 ballots from some Alexandria precincts.

Franson currently leads Cunniff by one vote. Withdrawing 35 votes is likely to change that margin, but the outcome will still be so close that a recount will be required.

Democrats won control of both chambers of the Legislature on Election Day but the outcome of the recount will determine whether Democrats have a 12 or 13 seat House majority when the legislative session starts in January.

Here’s the order:

Douglas County Ruling

  • Bill Prendergast

    That’s the “solution”? Throw out random votes that are likely to be *legitimate* votes?

    I’m not sure the court thought this one through. As I understand it (after reading the story and the court order) the court found that thirty five people who weren’t entitled to vote in this election, voted anyway.

    If the problem is thirty five illegitimate voters–how can eliminating the right to vote for thirty-five law-abiding voters be considered a “solution?”

    It seems crazy. It doesn’t protect the rights of people who cast legitimate ballots. Instead it casts their votes out–and make it more likely that *illegitimate* voters will determine a close election result. And the decision seems to *encourage* people willing to cast illegitimate votes in future elections–because their votes are more likely to count than legitimate votes, under this policy .

  • Max Hailperin

    The headline is misleading. The ballots aren’t to be thrown out. According to Minnesota Statutes 204C.20 they are to be “withdrawn” and “sealed in a separate envelope.”

  • Peter

    That’s the way the law is written.

    We don’t have a “right church, wrong pew” law like they put in place in Ohio, where if a voter shows up to the right polling place, and is given the wrong ballot for their precinct, their vote still counts.

    That’s the case here. These polling places had multiple precincts at the same location. The voter was given the wrong ballot by the poll workers. They should have been given a ballot for the precinct they lived in so they could vote for the correct local races.

    There were no “*illegitimate* voters ” as Mr. Prendergast claims. Illegitimate implies they commited a crime. They were all eligible voters, US Citizens 18 years of age or older not currently serving a felony sentence and who have not had their right to vote taken away by the courts. They just were given a ballot for the wrong precinct.

    The outrage should be that 35 people did not get the opportunity to vote for their local races because of an error. Not that officials are following State law to correct a mistake.

  • Plymouthian

    This is insane. What you are doing here is disenfranchising 35 people who did nothing wrong and potentially changing the outcome of an election in a way that does not reflect the will of that electorate. The only fair solution (assuming there is no way to pull out the 35 votes) is to have a new election. The cost may encourage douglas county to do a better job with training precinct people.

  • Bill Prendergast

    Peter, thanks for trying to straighten me out on what happened. The problem is that I’m relying on a news account and a court decision about what happened, rather than on a more detailed account from a comment thread. I think you can understand: find it unwise to rely on accounts presented in comment threads by unidentified authors.

    Thanks anyway. Assuming your explanation is better than the one given in the news accounts:

    “The outrage should be that 35 people did not get the opportunity to vote for their local races because of an error.”

    …I agree…

    “Not that officials are following State law to correct a mistake.”

    I disagree. If these officials really are following state law to correct a mistake, that will result in an even worse mistake–a mistake you and I both identify as “outrageous.” That’s unacceptable, for the court’s “cure” to be worse than the “disease.”

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jay McHue

    No, Bill, the judge really is following state law to the letter. By law, you cannot have more ballots than signatures on the voter roll. Leaving the 35 ballots in place would have done irreparable harm to the rule of law and would have violated state law. The judge ruled rightly and stopped this from being dragged out by getting higher courts unnecessarily involved.

    Part of me thinks that like Rep. Franson’s detractors in this district, you’re just complaining because it makes it harder for her opponent to win. My bet is that you really couldn’t care less about the 35 “disenfranchised” voters because Rep. Franson “called welfare recipients animals!”