September 2, 2022 – Letter to the Editor, Star Tribune
Thanks to current administrative rules, absentee voting has major integrity issues – James Dickey, Senior Trial Counsel, Upper Midwest Law Center
In Ryan Faircloth’s August 29, 2022 article, “Minnesota secretary of state candidates Crockett,
Simon offer different approaches on voting,” Mr. Faircloth cites Secretary of State Simon as
claiming that “a mailbox thief” would have to “accurately forge [a voter’s] signature and obtain the
separate witness signature that’s required to vote by mail.”
Unfortunately, under the administrative rules created by Mr. Simon’s predecessor and enforced
by the Office of the Secretary of State, that is not true. In fact, the Office has defended the rules,
which say the opposite, in court.
Minnesota Rule 8210.2450 actually makes it impossible for election judges, who must compare
signatures between ballot applications and signature envelopes,to do just that. In place of the law’s
signature-matching requirement, the rule says that a “ballot must be rejected under this subpart
on the basis of the signature if the name under this subpart is clearly a different name than
the name of the voter as printed on the signature envelope.”
The rule then states that this is the only basis for rejection of an absentee ballot under the
statute, and it allows for a variety of differing signatures to be used on one or both documents,
forbidding rejection even with these differences. Thus, even if there is a signature mismatch,
according to the Rule, the ballot must be accepted unless the names are different.
I wish what the Secretary said were true, but the Upper Midwest Law Center has had to bring
a lawsuit, representing Minnesota Voters Alliance, to challenge this rule, which does the
opposite of what the Secretary says.
The article also misleadingly states that “Minnesota cities and counties get to choose who counts
absentee ballots, with some tapping election judges and others relying on their employees.”
Employees who are not “deputy county auditors” have no say in the counting. But who “counts”
absentee ballots which have already been accepted as truly the voter’s vote is a side issue. Who
“accepts” or “rejects” absentee ballots is the major issue.
In the Minnesota Supreme Court’s March 16, 2022 decision in Minnesota Voters Alliance v.
County of Ramsey, the Supreme Court held that only party-balanced election judges may accept
or reject absentee ballots where there is an identification number mismatch between the ballot
application and the signature envelope. This category alone resulted in over 7,000 rejections in
the 2020 primary and general elections, according to the Secretary of State’s statistics. Given the
misleading administrative rule for election judges, that number would likely be far higher if
“signature matches” were really being done.
Sadly, unless the Secretary changes the current rules, it is far too easy to cheat in Minnesota