Local View: With careful eyes watching, Minnesotans can vote with confidence

From the column: "A commitment to uphold common-sense, statutory, and bipartisan election-integrity measures is important."

Randall Enos / Cagle Cartoons
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The midterm elections are over, but that does not mean we should stop ensuring the safety, security, and transparency of voting. In view of the public, a commitment to uphold common-sense, statutory, and bipartisan election-integrity measures is important. We should strive to ensure that all voters are confident their votes are appropriately processed and cast, whether absentee, early, or in-person on Election Day.

That is why the Upper Midwest Law Center proactively worked to ensure that Minnesota’s counties and cities fully complied with state and federal law for the 2022 elections. The law center continues to do so. We believe our work and commitment to continuing it should give Minnesotans reason to cast their votes, early or in-person, with confidence, trusting that careful eyes are watching the process.

For example, after analyzing the state voter list, one of our clients, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, uncovered hundreds of duplicate voter registrations in Minnesota, with some that have persisted for years. As a result, we brought six lawsuits against Minnesota counties before the 2022 elections for violations of the federal Help America Vote Act, which requires the elimination, or “merging,” of duplicate voter records. We have now settled five of six of these lawsuits, resulting in the elimination of hundreds of duplicates and increased efforts by counties to ensure duplicates are eliminated from their lists.

When we raised these issues via our lawsuits, these settling counties demonstrated their commitment to safeguarding Minnesotans from double voting. We appreciated their dedication.

We with the Upper Midwest Law Center also represent concerned Minnesotans who brought to our attention issues with the secretary of state’s absentee ballot-processing rule. As written, the rule conflicts with state statute. The statute requires ballot-board members to be “satisfied” that “the voter signed” the return envelope and the initial ballot application if identification numbers between the return envelope and the initial ballot application do not match. But the rule says a ballot-board member cannot reject a return envelope because different people sign these two documents or even based on apparent differences in the signatures. The statute gives ballot-board members discretion to use common sense in evaluating a ballot; the rule takes that away.


It is important to note that this is a purely nonpartisan issue; when reviewing ballots, absentee-ballot board members cannot view how a voter voted by looking at the outside of a ballot return envelope.

The court of appeals ruled against us in this case, but the Supreme Court has agreed to review it, and the court will likely hear the case this spring.

In addition, after the Minnesota Supreme Court held in March 2022 that absentee ballot boards must allow party-balanced election judges to conduct any signature matches, we reached out to the largest counties and cities in Minnesota to ensure they had legally valid policies and enough election judges on their boards to do these tasks. After all, there is no better way to eliminate the “appearance of evil” than to have folks on both sides of the aisle reviewing the ballots. Our communications led to several counties updating their policies to require party-balanced election judges on their ballot boards and ensuring that those party-balanced individuals would handle signature matching for absentee-ballot processing.

These actions were and are necessary to uphold Minnesota elections' fairness, security, and transparency. We will continue this work, and we hope that knowing that someone is “watching the watchers” delivers confidence to Minnesota voters in future elections.

James Dickey of Apple Valley, Minnesota, is the senior trial counsel with the Upper Midwest Law Center (, which works to ensure government transparency and voter confidence.

James Dickey.jpg
James Dickey

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