As most of you have hopefully heard (especially if you chose to do an absentee ballot), a Federal Appeals Court ruled that all absentee ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day in Minnesota would have to be kept separate from the other ballots. This decision opened up the possibility those ballots would become invalid if certain people chose to contest the results. Before this ruling, Minnesota was going to allow all absentee ballots that were postmarked by Election Day to be counted, even if they were received as late as Tuesday, Nov. 10.
I’m not going to get into the debate regarding if the original policy was a good one or not. Both sides of the issue had good arguments, and quite frankly, it didn’t apply to me since I still voted on Election Day. But I do have a huge issue with the court’s decision, and more specifically, how late in the game it came down.
Let’s face it, folks. Many of us are total procrastinators, even when whatever action we are putting off is to our benefit. Those people shouldn’t be condemned for doing it - it’s just in their nature. And as long as they are within the established rules, they shouldn’t be punished for it either.
A perfect similarity is with sending in tax returns. Even if they are receiving a refund, some people just can’t help but put off filing them until the last minute. And that’s completely legal since the established policy has been no penalty if they are postmarked no later than April 15. Now, let’s just say some court suddenly ruled on April 10 that tax returns must be received by the IRS by April 15, otherwise you will have to pay a late penalty. There would be so many people screaming bloody murder over that decision.
That is exactly what this decision is doing. It is punishing people who were simply following the rules that were established some three months ago.
More importantly, however, this ruling actually taints the election process, instead of ensuring its validity. The ruling is so vague it opens the door to a candidate waiting until seeing the election results - both from Election Day and after those “late” absentee ballots are counted, and if that candidate goes from winning the election to losing it in those seven days, they can then go through the legal process to have those “late” ballots invalidated, thus giving them the cheap victory.
Worse yet, it is still unclear which votes would be invalidated should someone successfully contest the counting of those “late” votes. If one of the Presidential candidates does this, it is possible all of the votes on those ballots would subsequently be invalidated. So, Jane Smith, who managed to get elected to the school board by the narrowest of margins, may very well have that victory yanked out from under her solely because one of the National Parties thought they could steal Minnesota’s electoral college votes.
Granted, all of these might be worse-case scenarios that never come to fruition. But just by having these “what-ifs” hanging out there, it may go a long way to creating distrust in our election process and further divide our country, which is something I hope nobody wants to create.
BILL STICKELS III is editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at 763-689-1181 ext. 107 or email@example.com.