Minnesota absentee ballot extension
In this July 29, 2020, file photo, Lisa Finander, right, checks that each ballot has the voter's name on the ballot and mailing envelope and Laurie Mattila, left, checked that it was correct at Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services in Minneapolis. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP, File)

“The rights of voters to cast their ballots in the least burdensome manner is paramount. This decision furthers that ability.”

Federal Judge Nancy Brasel dealt a blow to Minnesota Republicans when she ruled Sunday to uphold a state court agreement giving election officials an extra week to count absentee ballots. 

A citizens’ rights group, the Alliance for Retired Americans, had voiced concerns about safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the extension was necessary due to the increased volume of mail-in votes from seniors and people with health complications. In June, Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon agreed to count ballots that arrived up to a week late. The ballots must still be postmarked by Election Day. 

Republicans have nationally been pushing back against any expansion of voting rules. State Rep. Eric Lucero and GOP activist James Carson brought the suit on the grounds that an extension would cause confusion for voters. Both would participate in the Electoral College if President Donald Trump wins Minnesota, which he narrowly lost in 2016. No Republican has carried the state since Richard Nixon in 1972. 

Lucero and Carson also warned that the order cast “substantial doubt whether the United States Congress will even accept the results of the popular vote in Minnesota.”

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Judge Brasel, a Trump appointee, disagreed. “In reality, the Electors are in danger of creating confusion rather than avoiding,” she wrote. 

More than a million Minnesotans have already requested absentee ballots with instructions. Changing the rules mid-stream would unnecessarily complicate matters, she noted.

Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, called it “an important common sense voting rights victory.”

“The rights of voters to cast their ballots in the least burdensome manner is paramount. This decision furthers that ability,” Fiesta told the Associated Press.

Attorneys for the GOP electors have filed a notice to appeal the judge’s ruling.

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