The case was originally brought by two voters in President Donald Trump’s electoral college in Minnesota, James Carson and Eric Lucero. Separately, the Trump campaign and the Republican state legislative candidates petitioned the State Supreme Court to separate the ballots that arrive after the close of polling stations earlier in the week.
Trump’s campaign targeted Minnesota earlier in the cycle as a potential turnaround target after losing it by just 1.5 percentage points in 2016, but it seemed to fall off the battlefield map in the ‘autumn. However, the state is seeing a late campaign surge, with Trump and Joe Biden hosting events in Minnesota on Friday.
Judges Bobby Shepherd, appointed by former President George W. Bush, and L. Steven Grasz, appointed by Trump, formed the majority. Judge Jane Kelly, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, was dissenting.
There is an additional layer of complexity to the case beyond the separation of certain types of ballots: the court has suggested that only votes in the presidential race can be rejected if the consent decree is invalidated. The court order states that the ballots should be separated “so as to allow their respective votes for presidential voters … to be removed from the total votes in the event that a final decision is made by a competent court holding that these votes would be invalid. or illegally counted. “
Simon’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. State Democrats criticized the decision and urged voters to submit their ballots in person.
“This absurd and mistaken opinion will reject the rules that were in place before the vote began in September,” Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic Peasants-Labor Party, said in a statement. “I urge the people of Minnesota to return any outstanding mail-in ballots in person as soon as possible. The reason the Republican Party attacks your right to vote is because of the power of that vote to change our state and our country.
Shepherd and Grasz noted in their ruling that their move could confuse voters just days before election day.
“The consequences of this order are not lost on us. We recognize and understand the concerns about voter confusion, electoral administration issues, and public confidence in the election that drive the Purcell Principle, ”citing a doctrine that federal courts generally should not disrupt electoral rules near election day.
“Having said that, we conclude that the challenges that will arise from this decision are preferable to a post-election scenario where postal votes, received after the legal deadline, are either mixed with ballots received on time, or invalidated without prior warning,” they continued. .
This is the second case in as many days that federal courts have hinted that late ballots could still be cast, even potentially after election day.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to expedite a Republican extended-time challenge in Pennsylvania, but left it open to rule on the case after polling day.
In a statement accompanying the denial in Pennsylvania, Judge Samuel Alito noted in the Pennsylvania case that the Commonwealth Secretary issued guidelines to local election officials earlier Wednesday to separate the ballots received after the polls closed. but before the November 6 deadline, cracking the door for a potential post-election decision.
Alito’s statement suggests that he believes those ballots could still be cast, even if a decision comes after polling day. “The dismissal by the Court of the expedited motion does not constitute a refusal to ask this Court to order that ballots received after polling day be separated so that if the decision of the State Supreme Court is eventually canceled, a targeted remedy will be available, ”he wrote.