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DISTRICT 11 DILEMMA: 400 mail-in ballots go uncounted in democratic primary

Officials say more than 400 mail-in ballots went uncounted in what ended up being a tight democratic primary for a Minnesota State Senate Seat.

Carlton County officials say those ballots were received after the 8 p.m. deadline on the day of the January 22nd primary, in which Stu Lourey defeated Michelle Lee.

Lourey defeated Lee by 233 votes, meaning that the uncounted ballots could have either widened Lourey’s lead, or changed the outcome of the race entirely.

Since the special primary election results have already been certified, Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert says that means Lee can’t ask for a recount, but she could pursue legal action.

One big reason why these ballots arrived after the deadline is the timing of this special election. According to Gassert, normally the county would send out mail-in ballots for an election 45 days in advance, giving voters more than a month to mail their ballot back in.

However, because of the quick timeline for this special election, ballots were sent out a week before last Tuesday’s primary.

Each candidate sent KBJR 6 a statement Tuesday.

Michelle Lee’s Statement:

“It is what it is. I lost the primary. My advisers tell me there is nothing I can do about the uncounted ballots that came in after the deadline and hundreds of others that were not returned.

Any action would have to be taken by disenfranchised voters. It is my hope that the Secretary of State will investigate the circumstances surrounding the primary and the difficulties our county officials faced sending out and receiving ballots in the limited time provided by the state.

I am not angry that I lost. I am angry that many people in Senate District 11 were shut out of the process to select our next senator.”

Stu Lourey’s Statement:

“My family and I live in a mail ballot precinct, and it’s disappointing that some mail-in ballots arrived after the primary. Current law governing the timeline of this special election made mail balloting extremely difficult for some voters and the Legislature and the Secretary of State should change this for future special elections.”

On Twitter Tuesday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon wrote, “Hundreds of MN voters may be disenfranchised next week because of an outdated state law. The tight timeframe for special elections means people who receive their ballot by mail might not get it fast enough to mail back in time to be counted. The legislature needs to change that.”

Lourey goes on to face republican candidate Jason Rarick and Legal Marijuana Now party candidate John “Sparky” Birrenbach on Tuesday, February 5.

Briggs LeSavage

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