Nobles County gets subpoena
WORTHINGTON -- About 6,000 photocopied documents were shipped out of the Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer's office Tuesday afternoon in response to the latest request in the ongoing saga over Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat.
Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign has subpoenaed several counties throughout the state to provide documents -- most of which pertain to absentee ballots. Nobles County received its subpoena late last Thursday, with the documents due to Coleman's attorneys by 9 a.m. today.
"It goes well beyond the previous data practices requests," said Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore of the documents requested in the subpoena.
Sharon Balster, Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer, said she had to call in help from other county offices in order to meet the short deadline. Starting on Thursday, a team of eight people began making copies of the documents, redacting all of the personal information such as birthdates and social security numbers, and then copying the documents once again. The Coleman campaign will be charged for all of the copies made and the staff time needed to meet the demand.
Among the documents the county was told to provide were all applications requesting to vote by absentee ballot, documents or lists of those who were sent absentee ballots, names of those who returned absentee ballots, documents or lists of the absentee ballots counted in the election, lists of same-day voter registration, copies of all of the absentee ballot envelopes accepted by the county, all voter registration applications submitted with the absentee ballots and the polling place rosters for the county. The City of Worthington also received a request to supply the names of the election judges.
There were 778 absentee ballots cast in Nobles County.
Moore said he doesn't care to speculate as to why Nobles County was subpoenaed to provide the additional documentation. Balster said she didn't know, either, what criteria was used.
"I really don't know how they chose (counties)," said Balster.
Mark Drake of the Coleman for Senate campaign e-mailed the Daily Globe late Tuesday saying, "We are requesting that counties and municipalities provide documentation sufficient for us to analyze potential claims in the contest."
Attending a conference for auditors this week, Balster said she has heard that more counties received subpoenas on Tuesday. While some county auditors and election directors also received subpoenas to give verbal testimony, she was not among them.
Counties received such a tight deadline to supply the information requested in the subpoena because the law requires a trial must be conducted within 20 days of the issued challenge contesting the election results. Moore said the Minnesota State Supreme Court on Monday appointed three judges -- representing the fourth, seventh and ninth judicial districts -- to review the case in Ramsey County.
Balster said she received help from the administration office, county attorney's office and family services, in addition to her staff in the auditor's office to gather the requested documents. They started compiling the information Thursday, worked until 6 p.m. Friday and finished up on Monday.
"This is a very rough guesstimate, but close to 18,000 copies were produced over a three-day period in response to this subpoena," said Moore. "This was quite a remarkable undertaking. They had to send out to the store for white-out tape for the amount of redacting that was going on. We burned up a few trees, unfortunately, in Nobles County while this was going on."
Moore said the latest subpoena, as well as all of the other requests made by the Coleman and Franken campaigns since Election Night, have put a strain on smaller counties such as Nobles.
"Sharon and her staff have been dealing with this for two months," he said. "It's taken up a really large amount of the auditor's time during that two months, when the auditor's office has been busy doing other things."
"We're not working extra hours, but we're pushing things back a little bit," said Balster. "There's some things that have to be done like tax distribution (that) we prefer to be working on already, but you can't."