Tom Emmer now has what he wanted from the Minnesota Supreme Court: A written opinion that explains why the justices denied his petition that essentially accused some state elections officials of breaking the law.
The 18-page opinion, just issued, refutes Emmer's legal arguments up and down and moves Mark Dayton one step closer to the Governor's Mansion.[jump]
Emmer's team wanted the court to order election officials across the state to go back and match the number of ballots cast in each precinct with the number of voters' signatures on the rolls, and they wanted the work done before the State Canvassing Board met today. Anything less breaks state law, they argued.
But today, the court laid out why it agreed with the Secretary of State and Mark Dayton's lawyers, who argued that an administrative rule set in place decades ago gives local election officials an alternative method for comparing the number of voters to the number of votes cast. They can compare the final vote tally to the number of recorded ballot receipts instead, and in some precincts, election officials followed the optional administrative rule.
And while we do not reach the parties' arguments concerning the scope of the Secretary of State's rulemaking authority, the longstanding administrative interpretation of the statutes, embodied in the rule, allowing reliance on voter's receipts in determining the number of ballots to be counted, and the use of that interpretation in practice, supports our conclusion that the Legislature did not intend to require exclusive reliance on the number of signatures on the polling place roster in determining the number of ballots to be counted on election night.
Our review of the purpose of the statutes, relevant prior legislation, and the longstanding administrative interpretation establishes that the Legislature intends the processes prescribed by Minn. Stat. § 204C.20, subd. 1, and Minn. Stat. § 206.86, subd. 1, to be based on either the number of signatures on polling place rosters, or on the number of voter's receipts. Because we conclude that the practice petitioner claims is in error, that is, determining the number of ballots to be counted on election night by counting the number of voter's receipts, is permissible under both Minn. Stat. § 204C.20 18 and Minn. Stat. § 206.86, we hold that petitioner has not demonstrated any "wrongful act, omission, or error" that provides a basis for relief under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44. The petition must therefore be denied.
Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Justices Alan Page, Chris Dietzen, Helen Meyer and G. Barry Anderson heard the original arguments and issued their original denial without comment in late November. (Gildea, Anderson and Dietzen were appointed to the bench by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Meyer was appointed by Jesse Ventura, and Page was elected to his seat.)
Yes, Tom Emmer's recount ship is indeed sinking. Can a concession speech be far off? Or will Emmer find another legal avenue? After all, as state GOP chair Tony Sutton has said, this battle "is personal."