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Minneapolis Elections and Voter Services
Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, has petitioned in Ramsey County court to make sure that 318 absentee ballots recovered after being misplaced get counted. In this July 29 photo, election workers process mail-in ballots at Minneapolis Elections and Voter Services. (Star Tribune via AP, File)

Bar Buzz: Becker-Finn sues to count mislaid ballots

Jamie Becker-Finn

Jamie Becker-Finn

A state representative has petitioned in Ramsey County court to make sure that 318 absentee ballots, which somehow got mislaid on Oct. 31, get counted.

The county has offered no opposition to the petition, according to court documents. And the judge in the case has signaled he would agree to the request, the plaintiff said Thursday.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, a lawyer and Hennepin County prosecutor, filed the action pro se. The case was assigned to Judge John H. Guthmann.

Plaintiff Becker-Finn filed the petition Wednesday after the Ramsey County Elections Canvassing Board voted to affirm the “obvious error” on Nov. 18.

According to a Ramsey County press release, the gaffe was discovered on Nov. 13, during a routine post-election review. That’s when elections staff found a sealed box of unprocessed and uncounted absentee ballots, still in their signature envelopes.

The box had been properly labeled as needing to be processed, Ramsey County Elections Manager David Triplett told canvassing board members. But it somehow got misplaced on Oct. 31 after statutory emergency procedures were enacted when the statewide voter registration system became temporarily inaccessible, he said.

During that period, he said, it appears that the box, while labeled properly, was inadvertently placed in storage along with boxes of processed ballots. No other errors were found during the review.

“I will be filing a petition with the court today (per Minn. Stat. 204C.39) to ensure all ballots are properly counted,” Becker-Finn wrote on Twitter on Nov. 18.

She followed through later that day, claiming standing as general election candidate running for reelection in House District 42B. That district includes precincts in Little Canada, Gem Lake, Roseville, Shoreview and Vadnais Heights, all of which are in Ramsey County.

The canvassing board said that 131 candidates were affected by the error and all were being notified. Becker-Finn was among those alerted.

“The letter I received today from Ramsey County indicated that it was human error,” she wrote on social media, “and that no individual election outcome will be altered as a result.”

Becker-Finn said she believes that at least some precincts in her district were impacted by the mislaid box of ballots.

Her petition asks the court to issue an order declaring an obvious election error has occurred. It also seeks an order directing the county canvassing board to inspect all 318 ballots and correct any errors before the State Canvassing Board meets on Nov. 24.

In the county’s Nov. 19 response to her petition, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Robert Roche agreed to the petition.

A hearing was held before Guthmann by phone on Oct. 19, during which a proposed order was offered the judge. According to Becker-Finn, Guthmann said he would tweak its language slightly but would make no substantive changes before granting the petition.

She expected Guthmann to issue the order later Thursday, but it had not been filed at deadline.

Even without the mislaid ballots, unofficial results show that Becker-Finn won reelection against her GOP opponent Sue Finney by 2,200 votes.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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