On Thursday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the GOP a victory in Minnesota, ruling that Minnesota absentee ballots must be physically received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.
“Previously, a ballot that was postmarked Nov. 3 would still be counted so long as it arrived within a week,” CBS Minnesota reported, adding, “The ruling says that the plaintiffs — Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office — did not show that they were entitled to relief amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Minnesota Republican Party stated, “We applaud the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for upholding the integrity of the election and affirming Election Day as November 3rd. The pandemic has caused upheaval in many areas of life but hiding behind the pandemic to manipulate the election process is not democratic, and we appreciate that our laws and interpretation of those laws matter.”
“As of last Friday, there were 578,805 outstanding absentee ballots still not received,” CBS Minnesota reported, adding, “The ruling also leaves the door open for the absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day but not received until the days after to be set aside in case a future ruling invalidates those ballots.”
As the court noted:
Minnesota law dictates that election officials only count ballots received by election day. The Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Education Fund and some of its members (the “Alliance”) sued Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon in Minnesota state court, alleging the statutory deadline was unconstitutional. The Secretary and the Alliance entered into a consent decree purporting to change these rules, by essentially making the statutorily-mandated absentee ballot receipt deadline inoperative. A Minnesota state court confirmed that decree. As a result of this agreement, the Secretary has directed election officials to count absentee ballots received up to a week after election day, notwithstanding Minnesota law.
James Carson and Eric Lucero, both Minnesota registered voters and also certified nominees of the Republican Party to be presidential electors, sued the Secretary, alleging that the consent decree and the state court’s order confirming it violate the United States Constitution. Carson and Lucero sought an injunction, which the district court denied after concluding they lacked standing to bring the claims.
On appeal, we conclude that Carson and Lucero have standing and that the extension of the deadline likely violates Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution because the Secretary extended the deadline for receipt of ballots without legislative authorization. We therefore reverse the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction, and remand to the district court to enter an injunction requiring the Secretary and those under his direction to identify, segregate, and otherwise maintain and preserve all absentee ballots received after the deadlines set forth in Minn. Stat. § 203B.08, subd. 3.
“While injunctive relief preserving the ability to effectuate Minnesota election law, as written by the Legislature, has some potential for administrative disruption and voter confusion, this die was cast long ago,” the court stated. “Voter confusion was inevitable once the Secretary issued guidance to voters that was directly in contradiction to Minnesota election law. An orderly process was hopelessly compromised when he usurped the authority of the Legislature under the Electors Clause of the Constitution. During the entire pendency of this litigation, Minnesota voters have been left with two sets of contradicting instructions: one from the Secretary and another that has long been, and remains, codified in the election laws of Minnesota. In the end, ‘it is always in the public interest to protect constitutional rights.’”