Judge rejects Minn. GOP lawmaker’s challenge to extended mail-in voting deadline

    Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton.

    A federal judge rejected a lawsuit from a Minnesota Republican lawmaker and a presidential elector seeking to block absentee ballots received after Election Day from being counted.

    The ruling means election officials in Minnesota will be able to count ballots up to a week after Nov. 3, as already approved by state courts to accommodate the large volume of absentee ballots because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    State Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, filed the lawsuit with fellow Republican Presidential Elector James Carson in federal court two weeks ago in a Hail Mary play that would have potentially invalidated thousands of absentee ballots. In previous elections, absentee ballots had to be received by Election Day.

    By the time Lucero and Carson filed their suit, absentee ballots had already been printed and sent to voters with instructions saying ballots postmarked on Nov. 3 will be counted.

    President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican Party had also already agreed not to bring anymore legal challenges to Minnesota’s coronavirus-year modifications as part of a settlement agreement in state court.

    Republicans have aimed challenges at absentee voting across the country, with the president unjustifiably warning of massive fraud, even though research shows voting fraud is scant and voting by mail doesn’t favor either party.

    But banning absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day could disenfranchise more than 12,000 voters in Minnesota, according to analysis by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Kenneth Mayer, who provided expert testimony in the state lawsuit that resulted in the rule change.

    In August, a state judge approved an agreement between Secretary of State Steve Simon and several advocacy groups, which permits ballots to be counted up to a week after Election Day as long as they are postmarked Nov. 3. In the rare event that a ballot doesn’t have a postmark, election judges were directed to assume it was mailed on or before Election Day unless they had evidence to the contrary.

    Lucero and Carson, who were not named on the previous lawsuits, revived the challenge in federal court in hopes of finding a judge more sympathetic to criticism that the voting rule changes threaten the integrity of the state’s election.

    But U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel was not sympathetic to their case, ruling Lucero and Carson didn’t have standing as Presidential Electors to bring their complaint.

    In her decision, Brasel wrote that Lucero and Carson couldn’t show they would be individually harmed by the voting modifications or had the right to challenge their constitutionality.

    Lucero and Carson could choose to appeal the decision.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.