Group that backed instant runoff voting in St. Paul is fined $5,000
Group is fined $5,000, but the ruling won't affect referendum approval of IRV.
By CHRIS HAVENS, Star Tribune Last update: December 1, 2009
The judges ruled that the Better Ballot campaign deliberately made the false claims on about 40,000 pre-election mailings that urged people to vote for the ranked-choice voting system. Administrative law judges Kathleen Sheehy, Cheryl LeClair-Sommer and Barbara Neilson heard the case.
"These false claims of support or endorsement likely influenced some voters, but the impact on the election cannot be quantified on this record." So the vote will stand.
The violations were "multiple and deliberate," the panel said, noting that the Better Ballot group "remains completely unapologetic."
From the court order the IRV group "made knowingly false claims"
This is the final paragraph of the decision:
Accordingly, the panel has concluded that the Respondent made knowingly false claims that the Minnesota DFL and the League of Women Voters “endorsed” the St.
Paul ballot question and that it failed to obtain written permission from the national
political figures before using their names as supporters of the ballot question, in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 211B.02. The panel has concluded that these violations, which were reflected in approximately 40,000 pieces of campaign literature, were multiple and deliberate. They were made despite the clarity of the statutory prohibitions, and the Respondent remains completely unapologetic. The timing of these mailings made it difficult for opponents to respond before the election and created an unfair advantage. These false claims of support or endorsement likely influenced some voters, but the impact on the election cannot be quantified on this record. Under all the circumstances, the panel believes a fine in the amount of $5,000 is the appropriate penalty.
Crime pays and a bad precedent set.
So, St Paul Better Ballots lost on every point, but still the case was not turned over to the county attorney for prosecution. The decision sets a troubling precedent - the penalty for a rather blatant lie is 5 grand. This sum is a bargain compared to the cost of running an honest campaign! Who will do it next, now that the court has made fraud so affordable? "Technical Violation" is the new term for We can do anything as long as the ends justifies the means.
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