ST. PAUL — State officials on Tuesday, Nov. 24, certified the results of the Minnesota 2020 general election, putting winning candidates in numerous races a step closer to taking office.
A board of judges and Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon had to review and approve vote totals submitted by all 87 counties in the state as part of Tuesday's canvass. The winners of contests for state and federal offices held across Minnesota will be formally declared by the board in three days, per state law.
Simon credited election workers during the meeting for what he said were well-run operations, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
"All elections are intense, of course. They should be. They are clashes of ideas and proposals and records and aspirations. Presidential elections are even more intense because of the high stake and the high level of public interest. The 2020 election however was intense in a different way because it was conducted during a once-in-a-century pandemic," Simon said. "Happily, Minnesota met and overcame every single major challenge."
Tuesday's canvassing all but finalizes the outcome of an election in which a record 3.2 million Minnesota voters participated. The nearly 80% of eligible voters in the state who participated in the election delivered a decisive victory to President-elect Joe Biden, unseated longtime U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, and left divided control of the Minnesota Legislature.
Turnout was buoyed in part by mail-in and absentee voting, options for which were expanded this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Approximately 1.9 million votes in the Minnesota general election were cast absentee.
State officials maintain that despite higher rates of participation and an influx of mail-in ballots did not overwhelm Minnesota's election infrastructure and that there is no evidence for widespread voter fraud. Nevertheless, President Donald Trump and some Republican Party officials aligned with him continue to assert without evidence that the vote was tainted.
Minnesota had, for the most part, managed to avoid lawsuits challenging the integrity of its elections that the Trump campaign and others have filed in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. That changed on Monday, Nov. 23, when a petition seeking to halt the statewide canvass was announced, though the canvass ultimately proceeded without disruption.
An outfit made up of former Minnesota legislative candidates and calling itself the Minnesota Election Integrity Team is said to be leading the effort, according to a Tuesday news release from the group, because "irregularities were witnessed at the polls and with the management of Absentee ballots by the Secretary of State at various county locations." The group claims to have eyewitness accounts, pictures and videos from 150 volunteers who observed ballot counting processes throughout Minnesota "demonstrating that securing ballots and absentee envelopes and adhering to party balance requirements in election judges as required by law were not being met" and is suing Simon and the judges comprising the canvassing board in their official capacities.
Numerous others are listed as petitioners in the case, which according to online court records was filed Tuesday, including members of the New House Republican Caucus. Republican congressional candidate Tyler Kistner, who ran unsuccessfully against Minnesota U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, is named as a petitioner in the case as well.
In a separate announcement made Monday evening, Nov. 23, New House Republican Caucus members claimed that pandemic-related changes to Minnesota voting laws were illegal and had the effect of "absentee votes being treated differently from county to county," thus violating the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.
The 14th Amendment clause requires that all people in the United States be treated the same under the law.
Simon made no mention of the legal challenge or directly addressed the claims it laid out during Tuesday's canvassing meeting. A Minnesota Supreme Court order issued Tuesday by Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea indicates his office may not have been served notice of it, a situation she asked the petitioners to rectify before 4:30 p.m. that same day.
Gildea also ordered any memorandums in the case to be filed by 9 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 30.
Secretary of State's office spokesperson Risikat Adesaogun signaled a night earlier on Monday evening, Nov. 23, that the suit would not derail the canvassing process when asked to respond to the New House Republican Caucus statement.
"Neither our office nor our assigned attorney from the Attorney General's office has seen the lawsuit, but absent any order to the contrary, we're proceeding with the statewide canvass tomorrow as planned," she said at the time.
Simon did, however, reiterate that there was no foul play in the election on Tuesday.
"The election was secure on multiple levels. As of today, there have been no reports to the office of Secretary of State of particularized fraud or voter misconduct," he said. "And as of today, there is no evidence of any successful attempt by any unauthorized source, any adversaries and so forth, to infiltrate election infrastructure."
Part of Tuesday's canvass involved the certification of voting equipment audits, which involved randomly selected voting machines that were fed blank ballots used for testing purposes.
Presumptive officeholders are due to receive documents certifying their election signed by Gov. Tim Walz now that the canvassing has concluded. Minnesota's 10 presidential electors, meanwhile, are scheduled to submit their votes for president on Monday, Dec. 14.
In Minnesota, votes are canvassed by a board of four judges chaired and selected by the secretary of state. The board assembled for Tuesday's canvass conducted their meeting by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic.