I received a very concerning email on May 26 from our city clerk in response to my inquiry asking for the identities of those individuals who will be appointed to Minnetrista’s statutorily required absentee ballot board and who will be processing (accepting, rejecting, and counting) Minnetrista’s absentee ballots and was told “In past years, staff members have been trained to do so.”
The legislative intent in establishing the rules for appointing election judges and absentee ballot boards was to ensure impartiality in those appointments and Minnesota Statutes (203B.121, 204B.19-.22) reflect the important role party balance, and that impartiality, plays in the activities of election judges and absentee ballot boards. The city of Minnetrista appears to have been routinely bypassing the statutory requirements that provide for their governing body to act as the appointing authority for these positions and are improperly allowing the appointment of city staff members to accept, reject and count absentee ballots.
The moment an individual, however qualified they may be to perform election duties, becomes an employee of a city or county, earning an income from that city or county, that individual’s impartiality is compromised due to the authority the city has over the individual as the individual’s employer. An inherent conflict of interest is present that can influence the individual’s ability to impartially perform their election duties.
An election judge or ballot board member not in the employ of a local government entity is free to perform their duties unencumbered by a supervisor that may have influence over their continued employment. That is the reason the legislature gave the appointment authority for these important functions to elected representatives, not city clerks. It is also the reason for party balance requirements and for these individuals to be chosen from party lists, rather than local government staff, yet there is no evidence I can find of individuals other than city staff being given the important role of processing absentee ballots.
Party balance rules require ballot board members and election judges to be from different political parties and appointed by “the appointing authority” which is the “governing body,” i.e., city council. This Minnetrista city council has never been given a list of election judges or ballot board appointees showing party balance, even though the council is statutorily responsible for making these appointments. This city council has also never been given the specific names of individuals appointed to the ballot board responsible for processing absentee ballots.
This concerns me as it should every voter in Minnetrista.