MVA files appeal brief in Mpls ballot board case!

July 22nd, 2021

Dear Friends,  

On Wednesday, July 21, 2021, the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) filed an appeal in what is sure to be a landmark case that could solidify 'party balance' requirements on municipal ballot boards across Minnesota.

MVA is challenging the district court’s decision in MVA vs. City of Minneapolis, in which Judge Thomas Gilligan, Jr. (appointed by Gov Dayton) wrongly opined that the city was not required to have “election judges from different parties” accepting and rejecting absentee ballots. 

Rather, Gilligan’s grossly misguided opinion said the city could choose whomever they want to accept and reject ballots, as long as they called them “deputy city clerks!” 

Our appeal brief (click here to view) simply asks:

Does the City of Minneapolis have the authority to appoint 102 “deputy city clerks” to the general election ballot board under Minnesota Statute §203B.121?

The city of Minneapolis, during the 2020 general election, appointed more than 102 people, giving them the title of “deputy city clerk,” to the city’s absentee ballot board in a misguided attempt to circumvent the party balance requirements.

These so-called “deputies” consisted of union members, city staff, and seasonal city workers.  Our research shows the vast majority belonged to one political party. 

Republican election judges were told by the city that only these newly appointed  “deputy city clerks” would be allowed to accept & reject absentee ballots, despite the fact state statutes provide that accepting and rejecting ballots must be done by election judges from different major political parties. (203B.121, Subd 2).

The appeal was authored by Attorney Gregory J. Joseph and both Mr. Joseph and Attorney Erick G. Kaardal represent MVA and the Appellants in the case.

MVA’s four main arguments in the appeal are as follows:

- The Minneapolis City Council has no authority to define and appoint 102 “deputy city clerks” to a regular ballot board for state-controlled general elections under Minnesota Statutes §203B.121.

- Section 412.151 is the statutory foundation to appoint a “deputy city clerk.”

- Section 412.151 authorizes the appointment of a single “deputy city clerk” and no more.

- “Include” and “appoint” are not interchangeable terms:

In the context of § 203B.121 (below), the word “include” is critical to distinguish from “appoint.”  To “include” something is “to take in or comprise as a part of a whole or group.”  This term is casually conflated in the lower Court by Respondents with “appoint,” which means “to name officially.” 

These terms are not interchangeable. In order for something to be included as part of a larger group, it must first be officially named, or brought into existence. The city’s lack of authority to “appoint,” or bring a “deputy city clerk” (or 102 of them) into existence, is the subject of this lawsuit.

  • 203B.121 BALLOT BOARDS.

Subdivision 1. Establishment; applicable laws. (a) The governing body of each county, municipality, and school district with responsibility to accept and reject absentee ballots must, by ordinance or resolution, establish a ballot board. The board must consist of a sufficient number of election judges trained in the handling of absentee ballots and appointed as provided in sections  204B.19 to 204B.22. The board may include deputy county auditors or deputy city clerks who have received training in the processing and counting of absentee ballots.

As you can see, the statute doesn't authorize the appointment of dozens or hundreds of deputy city clerks. Laughably, this is the statute that the City, and the Judge, cite as providing the city with the authority to appoint as many deputy city clerks as they feel they need.  

The MVA is committed to fighting this egregious violation of our election laws as far and as long as it takes.  

When the Minnesota Court of Appeals sets a court date, we’ll let you know immediately to get it on your calendar!

It is uncertain whether oral arguments will be held in person, Zoom, or both. Either way, we will encourage as many as possible to attend to view what is sure to be one of the most exciting court hearings in decades!

We'll be sending out updates as developments occur in this case, as well as in our cases against Ramsey, Olmsted, and Lake Counties.  

Critical Support!

Please consider a generous donation today to help us cover our legal and filing fees as well as research and operational expenses.

Make your check payable to “Minnesota Voters Alliance” and send it to the address below, or you can contribute online at www.MNVoters.org.

Warm regards,

Andrew E. Cilek
Executive Director
Minnesota Voters Alliance
P.O. Box 4602, St. Paul, MN 55104

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