Hornswoggled: Minneapolis and Hennepin County absentee ballot boards ignore party balance law

Republicans and Democrats from Party Lists not welcome: only handpicked elections staff allowed to accept/reject absentee ballots

A Minneapolis Early Vote Center. (Minneapolis Voter Services/Twitter)

It was not enough to allow the city to burn. Then it wasn’t enough to emasculate city law enforcement. Now the Minneapolis City Council is corrupting the absentee ballot count by stacking ballot boards with handpicked staff rather than following state law that requires regular ballot boards to include people from the major political parties. Hennepin County, the most populous in the state, is doing it, too.

After the Al Franken/Norm Coleman recount debacle in 2008, where few observers trusted the 312 votes that placed Franken in the U.S. Senate over eight months after the election, the legislature decided that it could not trust public employees or temporary staff hired by insiders to review and count absentee ballots. The solution it required was just good common sense: citizen judges from the competing parties could keep the process honest. Otherwise Republicans are almost entirely excluded, and Democrats who are not on the payroll are, too. Just like precincts are supposed to be staffed by a Democrat and a Republican, so too are absentee ballot boards.

The key change is that citizen judges are supposed to be in charge of the critical process of accepting and rejecting absentee ballots. Minneapolis is accomplishing this unlawful deception by using a provision in election law that allows “deputy city clerks” to serve on absentee ballot boards. Hennepin County is doing the same thing. They are fully backed by, and always cite, a written Guide from Secretary of State Simon that makes the party balance law optional (re-writes the law).

If Minneapolis and Hennepin County are allowed to get away with this, absentee ballots will be accepted and rejected without observation or accountability, that is, in secret, literally behind closed doors, by insiders with no direct answerability to the public.

Minneapolis does not have “deputy city clerks” on its payroll and there is no authority for the City Council to appoint anyone to this non-existent position. Neither city ordinances nor the City Charter authorize the appointment of “deputy city clerks.”

Notwithstanding, on October 2, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council appointed 103 “deputy city clerks” without legal authority to do so. They just made it up. The City thinks it has found a clever way to shunt aside Republican and Democrat election judges and instead have all the rejecting and accepting of absentee ballots done by elections staff insiders.

The MVA filed a lawsuit against Minneapolis on Monday, October 5, 2020.

The Petition for Quo Warranto asserts that Minneapolis has no “deputy city clerks” and no authority to appoint them. Beyond that, the Petition points out that the duties (serving on the ballot board) are not those of a “deputy” which always means a person who is able and authorized to assume all of the duties of, in this case, the City Clerk. And, of course, the idea that the City would have scores of “deputy city clerks” is absurd and the attempt to designate that many is clearly aimed at flooding the absentee ballot board.

Minneapolis election officials have made it clear in email messages to citizen election judges that none of them will be involved in accepting and rejecting ballots. All of that critical work will be done by “deputy city clerks.”

As for Hennepin County, the chief election officer Ginny Helms testified in a Senate hearing on October 8 that it was just too hard to follow the party-balance law, and cited Secretary Simon’s Guide for the authority to ignore it without making any effort. Ramsey County, by contrast, reported that it was in full compliance with the party-balance rule. Elections officer Dave Triplett testified that Ramsey used the party lists over several months to find the people they need; they only use deputy county auditors to assist and support the ballot boards. I note that MVA had sued both Hennepin and Ramsey County, along with Minneapolis and Duluth to enforce the party balance rule; that suit, while not yet final, has already yielded some good results.

Finally, all of this is in the context of another attack on the integrity of the vote: MVA has also filed suit to stop a non-profit called the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) from influencing the general election. CTCL is a left-leaning election activist group pushing major government voting initiatives in Democratic strongholds like Minneapolis. (Michelle Malkin wrote about the CTCL effort to improperly influence Wisconsin elections in Alpha News here.) CTCL boasts that its major funding sources include Google and Facebook, and the group just recently received a contribution of $250 million from billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It has granted $3 million to Minneapolis.

What can you do to make sure your vote counts? Vote in person on Election Day or at your voting location on October 27 or later when you can feed your ballot into a tabulator yourself. (If you are in an all-mail ballot county, you will not have that option but you can turn in your own ballot.) It is wise to avoid mailing an absentee or mail-in ballot. You can review the Minnesota Voters Alliance Voter Guide here.

– – –

Kim Crockett is a Minnesota attorney and advisor to Minnesota Voters Alliance. She co-hosts a new show on election integrity on AM1280 The Patriot