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Ramsey County judge denies challenge to state election rules

ST. PAUL -- A Ramsey County judge denied election judges' request for a temporary restraining order that would allow them to deny ballots to voters whose eligibility had been challenged.

ST. PAUL -- A Ramsey County judge denied election judges’ request for a temporary restraining order that would allow them to deny ballots to voters whose eligibility had been challenged.

“Voting is not a privilege, but a constitutional right of all citizens,” District Judge Shawn Bartsh said in a memorandum accompanying her order.

Even if someone might lie about their eligibility, “that does not justify this Court issuing an order that would deny even one eligible person their constitutional right to vote,” she said.

Three election judges from Ramsey, Hennepin and St. Louis counties and the Minnesota Voters Alliance filed a series of suits challenging the interpretation of a law that requires judges to give ballots to voters who have been challenged as ineligible, as long as they self-certify that they are permitted to vote.

Election judges are required to question potentially ineligible voters listed as “challenged” in a polling roster because they are felons, wards of the state or not citizens.

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But it’s possible those people were granted citizenship, had a felony expunged from their record or otherwise had their right to vote restored, Bartsh said in her memorandum.

While it is a felony for someone to vote who knows they aren’t eligible, the petitioners weren’t able to prove they would suffer prosecution for “aiding and abetting” in a felony by following the election rules, the court document said.

Bartsh also dismissed another Minnesota Voters Alliance case challenging the same state election rules, stating the court lacked jurisdiction over the case.

“Petitioners’ memorandum was very impassioned and raised important issues” but did not prove the district court’s authority to decide the case, Bartsh said in a memorandum filed along with her motion to dismiss it Monday.

The case, filed Oct. 4 by the Minnesota Voters Alliance and Kirk Stensrud, also asserted that felons and wards of the state who are not eligible to vote have done so anyway because of their ability to self-certify their eligibility on Election Day, the memorandum said.

The petition also asserted that election officials have exceeded their authority to permit ineligible people to vote, naming Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, Ramsey County Election Manager Joe Mansky and Hennepin County Election Manager Virginia Gelms as well as “Election Judges John and Jane Doe.”

The petition, however, did not geographically limit which election judges it was addressing and did not serve every election official that it claims acted incorrectly, the memorandum said.

The case also doesn’t involve a specific election and wasn’t limited to a “county, municipal or school district office” race in Ramsey County, the court document said.

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