On absentee ballots:
The distinction between errors by voters and errors by election officials is an important one. We have drawn "a clear distinction between the provisions and prohibitions in the election laws which are personal to the elector and those which apply to election officials over whose conduct he has no control."...Fitzgerald v. Morlock, 264 Minn. 520, 524, 120 N.W.2d 339, 345 (1963). We have said that "any reasonable regulations of the statute as to the conduct of the voter himself" are mandatory, and a vote is properly rejected if the voter fails to comply with the law. Id. at 524, 120 N.W.2d at 345. But if a voter complies with the law, his vote should not be rejected because of "irregularities, ignorance, inadvertence, or mistake, or even intentional wrong on the part of the election officers."
We conclude that our existing case law requires strict compliance by voters with the requirements for absentee voting. Thus, we reject Coleman‟s argument that only substantial compliance by voters is required. Having rejected this argument, we also conclude that the trial court‟s February 13 order requiring strict compliance with the statutory requirements for absentee voting was not a deviation from our well-established precedent.
Is absentee voting a right or a privilege?
At oral argument, Coleman posited that because of the increased use of the absentee voting method, it should now be treated as a right, not a privilege. But that is a policy determination for the legislature, not this court, to make.
On the differing standards from county to county for how absentee ballots were judged:
Coleman was required to prove either that local jurisdictions ‟differences in application or the trial court‟s application of the requirements for absentee voting was the product of intentional discrimination. Coleman neither claims nor produced any evidence that the differing treatment of absentee ballots among jurisdictions during the election was the result of intentional or purposeful discrimination against individuals or classes. Nor does Coleman claim that the trial court‟s February 13 order, establishing certain categories of ballots as not legally cast, was the product of an intent to discriminate against any individual or class.
On Coleman's claim that some ballots were counted twice:
Coleman called no witnesses with direct knowledge of the handling of duplicate ballots in the relevant precincts, but he did introduce at trial voter rosters, envelopes from accepted absentee ballots, copies of ballots challenged during the manual recount, and machine tapes from the identified precincts in which he alleges double-counting of absentee ballots occurred. On appeal, Coleman has identified nothing additional that an inspection of ballots under section 209.06 would have produced.We therefore hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the petition for inspection.
On missing ballots in Minneapolis:
The ballots are missing, but Coleman introduced no evidence of foul play or misconduct, and the election day precinct returns are available to give effect to those votes.
The Supreme Court did not order Gov. Pawlenty to sign an election certificate.