More than 30,000 fall election ballots in Fillmore and Houston counties list a legislative candidate who didn't meet state filing requirements, an oversight that may leave the results open to legal challenge.
Independent candidate Al Hein appears on ballots for the Nov. 2 general election, even though he did not file a voter petition as required under state law, the candidate and Fillmore County officials said. Dozens of those ballots for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 31B seat have been mailed to absentee voters, and at least a small number of Houston County residents have already voted, officials said.
Even though the problem has been identified, it might not be corrected before Election Day. Hein, his opponents and Fillmore County officials all say they will not petition to have his name removed, and state officials say they have no standing to request the fix.
"This will be a tainted election," said Rep. Greg Davids, the Republican incumbent. "We have to be able to have confidence in our election process. We do not want another Franken-Coleman situation. And this is more blatant."
Said DFL challenger Steve Kemp: "I've resigned myself to the fact that on Nov. 2, this may not be over."
For a state legislative office, minor party or independent candidates must file petitions signed by 500 eligible voters in the district by the end of the filing period. But Hein said he didn't file any such petition because he didn't know one was needed.
Fillmore County officials still sent his name on to the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, and it then appeared on certified candidate lists issued to counties, which are used to form ballots, Houston County Auditor Char Meiners said.
The oversight was not noticed until someone asked to see Hein's petition Monday - more than three months after the filing deadline, Fillmore County Auditor/Treasurer Shirl Boelter said. Neither she nor County Attorney Brett Corson would answer questions about why the missing document was not noticed earlier.
The news shocked Hein's opponents, who said the error could compromise voters' confidence in the election process, they said.
"If you're a serious candidate, you find out what you have to do," Kemp said.
State law allows anyone living in the district to petition the Minnesota Supreme Court to have Hein's name removed, said Secretary of State spokesman John Aiken. But Fillmore County officials do not plan to enter the petition unless requested to by all three candidates, Boelter said in a letter to the candidates. The county wants to appear impartial, officials said.
Hein will not asked to be removed from the ballot, he said, but he won't challenge the results if he loses. While Hein acknowledges he did not follow guidelines, he said he has a responsibility to his supporters to continue on.
"If you think about it, should it be that hard for candidates of the minor parties to file?" he asked. "I think I'm doing the morally, ethically right thing here."