MOORHEAD — Edwin Hahn, a Republican from Moorhead who lost the race for the Minnesota House District 4A seat in the Nov. 3 election to Democrat Heather Keeler, has filed papers in Clay County District Court contesting the results.
In the lawsuit, Hahn and seven others are named as "contestants," while Keeler is named as a "contestee," along with Clay County Auditor and Treasurer Lori Johnson and Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.
The suit claims there were irregularities in the conduct of the Nov. 3 general election and in the canvassing of absentee ballot votes.
According to the suit, the Minnesota Secretary of State's website indicates there were 13,807 applications for absentee ballots in Legislative District 4A with 12,587 accepted and no reported rejections of absentee ballots.
The suit states that in the 2016 general election there were 674,566 accepted absentee ballots in Minnesota, each of which was properly witnessed.
In the November election, the suit says, there were nearly 2 million accepted absentee ballots and none required a witness.
"This sudden, massive increase in absentee ballots adversely impacted the ability of the canvassing boards and Secretary (of State) to complete their duties in a manner that maintained voter trust and election integrity," the suit added.
The suit also maintains that Johnson failed to follow required procedures, including that she failed to require party balance review of ballots as required by law, failed to allow public view of ballots by requiring a 6-foot distance from the precinct tables and that she failed to have election judges sign post-election review worksheets.
Efforts to reach Hahn for comment were unsuccessful on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
However, Hahn said in an email announcing the suit that the action sought to give the contestants, whom he described as citizens of Clay County, the ability to "inspect all applications, registrations, balloting materials, machines, processes, voter rolls, and many other key elements of the election."
Keeler said her legal team was addressing the suit and that the matter would be handled in court.
"As always, I value this community and all our voices are important," Keeler added.
Clay County Attorney Brian Melton described the suit as frivolous, adding he expected to have the county removed as a party in the action.
Melton maintained that Clay County officials did "a great job" conducting the election and said election workers strove to make sure all eligible voters could vote regardless of their party.
Several affidavits were filed with the lawsuit, including one from an individual named John Kowalski, identified in court papers as a registered voter in Minnesota.
Kowalski states in the affidavit that he and his wife both received absentee ballots and mailed their ballots on the same day.
In the affidavit, Kowalski states his wife's ballot was received on Election Day, but no official record of his absentee ballot could be found.
"I was never informed of the status of my ballot. If it was rejected, they needed to contact me. I was never contacted," the affidavit states.
Melton said the action filed in Clay County was very similar to a lawsuit filed in Dakota County in Minnesota.
The state House District 4A includes the city of Moorhead and Oakport Township.
In the Nov. 3 election, Keeler received roughly 57% of the vote to Hahn's 42% with approximately 18,436 votes cast.
Keeler and Hahn, who live near each other in Moorhead, ran friendly campaigns and Keeler has said that approach was intentional.
"It teaches the people in our community how we might see things a little bit different, but being kind to each other should be how we move through life, really," Keeler said before the election.