Election integrity is the big deal and the city of Minnetrista took an enormous stride toward that end last Thursday at a specially called council meeting to discuss the election process in Minnetrista and the role of election judges and absentee ballot board members.
State law requires that an absentee ballot board be established by the city council that is comprised of election judges, chosen from the major party lists, to accept/reject absentee ballots. It was discovered that in the past Minnetrista had not been appointing an absentee ballot board and had, instead, been using city staff to perform these duties.
Thanks to the Minnesota Voters Alliance filing a petition against the city of Minneapolis for doing virtually the same thing (Minnetrista differs slightly in that it only handles walk-in absentee voting presently) and pointing out applicable statutes showing cities are required to use election judges, chosen from party lists to establish the ballot board, Minnetrista was given the opportunity to scrutinize their past practices and to comply with the law.
As a result, for the first time, the Minnetrista city council has established an absentee ballot board comprised of election judges chosen from the party lists and will not be using city staff to accept/reject absentee ballots.
So why is this such a big deal? Because local government staff, whether from a city or county (both process absentee ballots), care very much about who will serve on their city council, board of county commissioners, state legislature, on up to the Governor and POTUS. They work closely with these elected representatives and develop relationships with them over time. Those relationships, good or bad, create an inherent conflict of interest in the performance of certain election duties that can impact election outcomes. No one would argue they don’t. That’s precisely why our laws require elections judges from different major political parties to be present when absentee ballots are accepted & rejected.
Unfortunately the practice of using local government staff to perform election duties meant for election judges is widespread throughout the state of Minnesota and likely the country.
Other cities’ and counties’ elected representatives need to ask questions of their election administrators to make sure they are complying with the law. There’s still time to get it right before the general election. And that’s a big deal.