Olmsted Co. Attorney: Not enough evidence to charge in election law case

A person loads a sample ballot into a counting machine
Two Rochester individuals suspected of breaking election law will not be charged due to a lack of evidence.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Two Rochester individuals suspected of breaking election law will not be charged because there’s not enough evidence for the charges to hold up in court, said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem. 

An MPR News and APM Reports investigation first reported these two individuals were under investigation by local law enforcement, and found widespread efforts to recruit Minnesotans who are skeptical of the outcome of the 2020 election to be election judges last November. 

In one case, local law enforcement investigated an individual who was suspected of intercepting polling place Wi-Fi while serving as an election judge during the August primary, Ostrem said.

“That would have violated his oath to protect the integrity of the system. When they did further investigation, there really wasn't independent evidence of the allegation,” Ostrem said. 

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Local law enforcement also investigated a second primary election judge who printed documents from a ballot tabulator that were ultimately considered public information. 

"When we're charging somebody, do we have probable cause? And in both cases, the answer would probably be ‘yes,’” he said. “But would we also then be able to continue to develop more information and evidence that would get us to prove beyond a reasonable doubt? And the answer was a clear ‘no.’"

Both those judges were not hired to serve during the November election, as was the leader of a local group of election deniers who circulated questionable instructions about taking pictures of balloting material and intercepting polling place Wi-Fi to local election judges. 

The Olmsted County Attorney’s office routinely investigates election complaints. But Ostrem said these allegations were unusual, reflecting unfounded concerns about the integrity of the election system stemming from the outcome of the 2020 election.