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Top election official defends Minnesota’s mail-in ballot system as ‘safe, secure and time-tested’

Plus: federal judge throws out lawsuit brought by Senate candidate Jason Lewis over Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions; Trump sounds familiar themes during Duluth visit; Twins end season with 18th straight playoff loss; and more.

Secretary of State Steve Simon
Secretary of State Steve Simon
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley

Says Torey Van Oot for the Star Tribune, “Minnesota’s top election official issued a strong defense of the state’s safeguards for absentee voting Wednesday, one day after President Donald Trump questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots during the first presidential debate. ‘The system is safe, secure and time-tested,’ Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said. ‘This has been a system that has worked very well, successfully and securely, for decades.’ Simon noted that Minnesotans have voted absentee since World War II.”

For WCCO-TV, Marielle Mohs says, “Forty Minneapolis restaurants say they’re worried the perception of downtown right now will kill their businesses, and they’re publicly asking for the mayor’s help. The restaurants jointly wrote a letter to Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council Tuesday about their concerns. They say public safety and perception of public safety are greatly impacting the viability of restaurants downtown. The letter calls for city officials to create a plan of action to make public safety a priority, to get people back downtown, and help businesses survive. Some of the restaurants making up this group calling for action include Black Sheep Pizza, Dakota Jazz Club, Smack Shack, Hell’s Kitchen and Brit’s Pub.”

The AP’s Steve Karnowski writes: “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a challenge by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis to Minnesota’s coronavirus restrictions, turning aside the former congressman’s arguments that the rules unconstitutionally limit his freedom to campaign. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz acted within his authority to respond to the public health crisis when he imposed restrictions on crowd sizes, travel and other measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected over 99,000 Minnesotans and killed more than 2,000. …He said Lewis had failed to show that his rights were improperly violated and dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning Lewis can’t file it again.”

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The Star Tribune’s Kaitie Galioto writes: “Five weeks before the election, President Donald Trump was back in Minnesota on Wednesday, raising money and rallying a few thousand supporters on a cold, blustery night. … “Now they’re all back,” he said of thousands of Iron Range jobs, seemingly unaware that the region’s mines have been struggling with closures and furloughs since the pandemic began.”

WDIO-TV in Duluth says, “President Trump began his speech by talking about the first presidential debate that took place with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, the night before. ‘We won big last night,’ President Trump said. ‘In the history of cable television, had the highest ratings of any show in the history of cable television.’ He praised his Supreme Court nomination, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, discussed replacing the Line 3 Pipeline and addressed Iron Range mine closures. He commented on how windy and cold it is in Minnesota.”

MPR’s Nina Moini writes: “Educators from Minneapolis and St. Paul rallied on Wednesday outdoors near the Mississippi River for what unions representing the two cities’ teachers and staff called, ‘safe, equitable and sustainable education during the pandemic.’ Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools are among districts currently practicing distance learning and monitoring state COVID-19 data regularly to determine when some students can safely return to school. Educators in the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals and the Saint Paul Federation of Educators say the school boards in the Twin Cities should do five things before switching the learning model in their districts from distance learning to hybrid models, which combine in-person and distance learning.”

Says Josh Skluzacek for KSTP-TV, “The Wisconsin-Minnesota Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) Passenger Rail Project will receive a $31.8 million federal grant, authorities announced Wednesday. The project will add an additional daily round-trip between the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as stops in between, along an existing long-distance Amtrak Empire Builder route.”

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Also for the AP, Todd Richmond and Lisa Marie Pane write: “The coronavirus tightened its grip on the American heartland, with hospitals in Wisconsin and North Dakota running low on space, and the NFL postponing a game over an outbreak that’s hit the Tennessee Titans football team. Like other states, health officials in Wisconsin had warned since the pandemic began that COVID-19 patients could overwhelm hospitals. That’s now happening for some facilities as experts fear a second wave of infections in the U.S.  … In North Dakota, hospitals are adding extra space amid concerns from employees about capacity. Nearly 678 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people have been diagnosed over the past two weeks, leading the country for new cases per capita, according to the COVID Tracking Project.”

A Hannah Jones story at City Pages says, “There isn’t really good news when it comes to climate change, just consolation prizes. But one of those consolation prizes is Minnesota’s particular resistance to the catastrophes of a changing climate. Earlier this month, the New York Times published a map of the greatest risks posed to specific parts of the country by climate change, including floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires, and more. It’s based on data from Four Twenty Seven, a company that assesses climate risk for financial markets.  Most of Minnesota is going to be facing medium to high risk of water stress. … However, a large swath of the state’s northeast point—five sizable counties including Koochiching, Itasca, St. Louis, Lake, and Cook—are sitting relatively pretty. There are low risks of extreme rainfall, heat stress, wildfire, and water stress, and no risk, naturally, of hurricanes or rising sea levels. That’s a fairly large oasis when compared to the rest of the map.”

In the Pioneer Press, Betsy Helfand writes: “Just days after celebrating their second American League Central title in as many years, the Twins were the first team to bow out of the playoffs after being eliminated by the Houston Astros, the only AL playoff team to finish below .500 this season, thanks to an anemic offensive performance. While the Astros will head the playoff bubble in Southern California, the Twins will pack up for home after falling 3-1 in Game 2 of the best-of-three Wild Card Series on Wednesday. It’s a bitter, familiar feeling for the Twins, who suffered the same postseason fate last year and have now lost 18-straight postseason games, a streak dating back to 2004.”