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MN Supreme Court rejects Emmer’s arguments over ballot reconciliation

Paul Demko//December 7, 2010

MN Supreme Court rejects Emmer’s arguments over ballot reconciliation

Paul Demko//December 7, 2010

Tom Emmer
Tom Emmer

The Minnesota Supreme Court has unanimously rejected Republican Tom Emmer‘s legal arguments regarding the correct method of counting ballots in the Minnesota governor’s race. The court issued an opinion on Tuesday stating that local election officials could rely on either voter signatures or voter receipts to come up with the proper number of ballots legally cast.

Emmer’s attorneys had argued that only voter signatures should be utilized and that the alleged administrative mistake may have resulted in thousands of illegitimate ballots being included in the tally. The court decision backs up a prior ruling by the state’s top court rejecting Emmer’s legal petition.

The opinion, which was issued by all five participating justices, determines that state law is ambiguous and relies on outdated terminology in laying out the proper method for coming up with a vote tally. “A statute that cannot be complied with because it refers to nonexistent documents is, by its very terms, ambiguous,” the justices wrote. Therefore it’s proper to rely on an administrative rule that specifically endorses either receipts or signatures as the proper means of calculating a vote total.

Following a statewide manual recount, DFLer Mark Dayton leads Emmer by nearly 9,000 votes, a margin almost unchanged since Election Day. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, there are just 181 legitimate ballot challenges (91 for Dayton; 90 for Emmer) pending before the State Canvassing Board. The five-member panel will begin reviewing those ballots on Wednesday.

The bottom line: Emmer appears to have very few credible options for further contesting the outcome of the election in the courts.

(Supreme Court justices Paul Anderson and David Stras did not participate in the ruling because they are serving on the State Canvassing Board.)


Ken Martin, Dayton’s recount director, issued a statement calling for the rapid conclusion of the election certification process. “The Court’s opinion makes it clear that Minnesotan election officials across the state acted appropriately by utilizing official voter receipts to reconcile precinct returns and to ensure that this election was accurate, transparent and reliable,” Martin said. “This also makes it clear that any effort to file a legal contest on this matter would lose in court.”

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