The Potluck

Secretary of State Steve Simon says no worries yet on mail ballots, thanks to court ruling

By: - August 14, 2020 8:47 pm
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon took to Twitter after Tuesday’s presidential debate to explain Minnesota’s rules on poll watchers. Simon is shown here speaking with city clerk Melissa Kennedy during a public accuracy test of Election Day voting machines in 2018. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

Minnesota is one of 46 states the U.S. Postal Service has warned may not be able to get all its mailed votes counted in time for the November election, but state election officials aren’t worried, thanks to a recent court ruling giving them an extra week to count votes.

A judge recently ruled the state can take an extra week to count ballots postmarked on or before Election Day this year. Minnesota mail-in voting law gives residents a large window to request ballots, so if someone requests a ballot the day before the election, there’s not enough time for it to arrive on Election Day, but Ramsey County Assistant Chief Judge Sara Grewing recently set aside the election law requiring mail-in ballots be received by the time the polls close on Election Day. She ruled ballots postmarked by Election Day must be counted as long as they’re received before the results are certified a week after the election.

So the warnings in a July 29 letter from the Postal Service are inapplicable, unless Grewing’s ruling is overturned on appeal. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said the letter did not reference that case, and the Postal Service should have known about it.

He said the letter only creates unnecessary alarm, and makes it sound like there’s a defect in Minnesota law, which is “just totally untrue.”

“I’m puzzled about why the letter was necessary, I’m puzzled about the purpose of it. Look it’s not gonna deter us,” he said. 

The office is doing a statewide campaign to urge people to vote early due to the huge increase in requests for ballots. If people are worried their ballot won’t get counted, they can also drop it off at county offices, he said.

Simon suspects the letter was designed by the feds to “deflect blame.” Letters between the Postal Service and election officials aren’t unusual, but this type of letter is.

“No one in our office can remember this type of letter,” Simon said.

While he’s not worried about counting votes for the election, he is concerned about the delays in mail delivery in general.

“That said, I am concerned about national reports about decisions made that have had the effect— I’m not ready to say it was the intended effect yet, although it sure seems suspicious — but it’s certainly decisions that have had the effect of slowing down not just ballots, but all U.S. mail,” Simon said.

Simon is referring to recent reports Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is undertaking operational changes at the Postal Service that have slowed delivery. President Donald Trump said this week he opposes needed financial help for the Postal Service because he wants to restrict vote-by-mail.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.