Democrat Stu Lourey defeated opponent Michelle Lee by 233 votes in the DFL’s January 22 Senate District 11 primary, but new reports indicate that more than 400 mail-in ballots went uncounted.
Duluth News-Tribune first reported that hundreds of ballots arrived January 25, three days after the election, and thus were not counted. Because of the “truncated timeline” for special elections, administrators and county auditors struggle to deliver mail-in ballots to voters in a timely manner, a spokesman for the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office said.
Under Minnesota law, just 35 days can pass between a governor’s issuance of a Writ of Special Election and the date of the general election. State law further stipulates that only ballots received on or before a general or primary election will be counted.
“If I’m a voter, it’s frustrating,” Auditor Paul Gassert told Duluth News-Tribune, noting that mail-in ballots continued to arrive the Monday after the primary.
A majority of the late ballots (250) came from Carlton County where Lee defeated Lourey 1,161 to 896 votes.
As a result, Secretary of State Steve Simon (D-MN) announced Tuesday that he will begin working with the Minnesota Legislature to extend the time frame for future special elections.
“I’ve been hearing from frustrated voters in Senate District 11 who are concerned their vote won’t be counted,” Simon said in a press release. “I share their frustration and that’s why I am working with the legislature to fix the timeline for carrying out future special elections. There is simply not enough time under the current law to hold a primary and general election, and to ensure the ease of voting that Minnesotans expect.”
He went on to call the special election a “bad situation” and ensured voters that he’s working with election officials to “get ballots out to voters” in time for the general election scheduled for February 5.
“For this election, if you’re a voter in SD11 and you’re concerned about your ballot being received in time, please contact your local election officials to determine available alternatives to mailing the ballot,” he added.
Center of the American Experiment’s Tom Steward observed that the “very system so-called voting rights activists instituted to take the inconvenience out of voting in person” ended up “disenfranchising hundreds of voters instead.”
“Maybe mailing it in when it comes to voting isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be,” Steward wrote. “In fact, local election officials warn it could be deja vu all over again in the special election in Senate District 11 coming up on February 5.”
– – –
Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Stu Lourey” by Stu Lourey.
Photo “Michelle Lee” by Michelle Lee.