Does Keith Ellison really think Donald Trump has a shot at being the first Republican since Richard Nixon to win this state in a presidential race? Or does he want to use this to stoke Democratic turnout in the race’s final hours? It’s definitely the latter, but CNN’s Chris Cuomo noted that Trump seems to be ramping up his investment here — even as Joe Biden belatedly plays defense.
“Honestly, yes I do,” Ellison replies when Cuomo asks whether Trump has a “real shot” in Minnesota:
“We did not shut down their rally,” says Minnesota AG Keith Ellison about Trump’s criticism of Dems limiting the capacity at his rally. “All we’re trying to do is protect people from a deadly virus that has taken the lives of about 2,400 Minnesotans and about 230,000 Americans.” pic.twitter.com/1qkejbAFpD
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) October 31, 2020
CUOMO: The president is putting a lot of money into your state. He’s greatly increased his ad buy there, $1.2 million in TV advertising in the final week of the campaign, more than it spent there in the preceding three weeks combined. Do you think the president has a real shot in Minnesota?
ELLISON: Honestly, yeah, I do. I will tell you that I believe in our campaign workers and organizers. They’re working extremely hard. I can tell you that Minnesotans know what a problem Trump is. I can tell you that Minnesotans know what a problem Trump is. They know he doesn’t care about their health care. They know all the bad things about him. But, you know, there are some folks who still are supporting him. And so what I tell people is that if you — is that one, he does have a shot, don’t play it cheap, work hard for every single vote. And don’t stop until 8 o’clock on November 3.
Speaking of not stopping, though, Cuomo hits Ellison over the state’s decision not to appeal an Eighth Circuit decision made this week on ballot counting. The state of Minnesota announced last night that they would not immediately appeal the ruling, which forbids counting any ballots received after Election Day. The state doesn’t rule out an appeal later:
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said Friday that his office will not challenge an appellate court decision that requires the state to separate any mailed-in ballots received after the polls close on Election Day.
“We disagree with the court’s decision, and there may be cause for litigation later,” said Simon, who added that his office’s focus will be on making sure voters cast ballots by the 8 p.m. Election Day deadline.
Simon, and other elected officials and activists alike, spent Friday urging voters to return absentee ballots in person or elect to vote in person instead of mailing in their ballots. They are concerned about an Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision Thursday ordering all ballots received after Tuesday’s 8 p.m. deadline to be segregated in response to a lawsuit from two GOP presidential electors. Simon and political party leaders worry that future legal challenges could invalidate ballots in the hotly contested election.
“We need to emphasize that there is no court ruling yet saying those ballots are invalid,” Simon said. “We absolutely reserve the right to make every argument after Election Day that protects voters.”
That’s a surprise. The state had entered into an agreement in July to settle a lawsuit over ballot access that essentially overruled the statute on ballot submissions. The state Republican Party sued, claiming that Simon didn’t have any authority to override statutes, and the courts agreed, including the Eighth Circuit. Their ruling declared that Minnesota had time to deal with COVID-19 issues in the legislature, and that this was no longer the kind of emergency that reasonably required extra-statute action.
The Supreme Court has been more flexible on these points this cycle, though. It seemed likely that the state would press its case on an emergency basis, and if they did that they would get a sympathetic hearing. Samuel Alito signaled last week that the window for emergency action had just about closed, however, which is why Simon hinted at post-Election Day legal action.
Ellison tells Cuomo that he believes that the case was “wrongly decided,” but notes that the order allowed Minnesota to sequester the post-deadline ballots. “They will be counted,” Ellison emphasized three times, but that’s only true if the Supreme Court reverses the Eighth Circuit. If not, they won’t be counted. And if Joe Biden wins the state on the initial count, there’s no way in hell that Ellison and Simon ever count the late arrivals.