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Hubbard Broadcasting sues for unopened recount ballots

I have a whole host of items I'm waiting for callbacks on, so with the day waning, I thought I'd at least blast out the news on a few and post the explanations as they arrive.

Up in Duluth, the Hubbard Broadcasting empire — KSTP in these parts — is suing for a look at St. Louis County's unopened U.S. Senate absentee ballots. Hubbard, which insists it wants no personally identifiable voter info, asked all 87 counties earlier this year, but every one turned down that request.

Why St. Louis County? This is something I'm waiting for callbacks on. Hubbard station WDIO-TV is there, but the brief makes no mention of any other reason.

It's DFL country — liberals' ears always perk up anytime the Hubbards, whose patriarch is a big GOP donor, get involved. And early on, St. Louis County was home a 100-vote accounting error, and later an allegation involving identical-seeming writing on what turned out to be transcribed ballots.

The Hubbard brief makes a simpler case: the ballots should be disclosed under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, and counties should not reasonably refuse if identifiable voter info is excluded. (You may remember that data is on an outer envelope; the votes are inside a second privacy envelope.)

The biggest legal hurdle, anticipated in Hubbard's June letter to counties, is that Minnesota courts have ruled sealed absentee ballots are private data. The question seems to be whether the outer envelope can be opened and "non-private" information extracted. Again, I'll let you know when the principals get back to me. I'm also trying to find out if suits will be filed elsewhere.

WDIO reporter Kim Johnson anticipates your likely eyeroll that her employer is keeping this alive, but Hubbard's legal brief contends:

Although Mr. Franken has taken his seat in the United States Senate and the election contest between him and former Sen. Coleman has been concluded, there continues to be widespread debate and concern in Minnesota about how the state’s election laws functioned with respect to the 2008 general election, including concern about tabulation of the absentee ballots cast in the election.

Our vacationing Eric Black gave his thoughts on this issue back in June; if you're looking for a philosophical take, it makes good reading.

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Comments (1)

Does this make any financial sense for the Hubbard clan?