Warriors for Justice candidates Nicole Beaulieu and Greg Paquin likely will have their petitions to gain the Nov. 2 ballot denied on Monday.
Beaulieu is seeking the House 4A seat held by Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, and Paquin is seeking the Senate 4 seat held by Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.
A petition of 500 signatures is needed to gain the Nov. 2 ballot under their new party, Warriors for Justice, and both candidates had more than 550 signatures each.
But the number of signatures with just post office box numbers give each candidate insufficient valid signatures to certify the petitions, Beltrami County Auditor-Treasurer Kay Mack said Friday.
Mack said she plans to issue a final ruling Monday after consulting with County Attorney Tim Faver.
"We're very confident that we're not going to be able to use the people who just signed using their P.O. box," she said. "And that's with advisement from the Secretary of State's Office, and why I feel really confident, not only because it's the same kind of rules and laws for voter registration, but under advisement of the secretary of state it has to be a physical address."
Beaulieu said she called the Secretary of State's Office in May and was assured P.O. boxes would be enough. She's talked to the American Civil Liberties Union and may file a lawsuit against the county.
Her petition had 580 signatures, she said Friday. The petition was submitted to Mack Tuesday afternoon. Mack called her minutes later to say it could not be accepted as more than 100 signatures had P.O. boxes rather than physical addresses.
Mack also said a number of signatures had no addresses and others were clearly from out of the 4A district.
"On May 19 Greg Paquin and I contacted the Secretary of State's Office ... in the Elections department to verify these P.O. boxes were going to be considered valid and he told us that they were," Beaulieu said in an interview.
So they proceeded to collect signatures, allowing them to list P.O. boxes in the address section, she said.
"I was just as lost as her," Beaulieu said about phone calls going back and forth Tuesday between her and Mack. "I kept arguing the fact that I had called them (Secretary of State's Office) and they verified that those were going to be considered valid, and here she's saying they're not valid."
Minnesota election law, Chapter 204B, describes how to obtain nomination petitions and states that, "Immediately after the signature, the signer shall write on the petition the signer's residence address, including street and number, if any, and mailing address if different from residence address."
Mack said she held off on making a formal dismissal in order to check out Beaulieu's claim with the Secretary of State's Office. "I will give them any benefit of the doubt," she said, but couldn't track down without a name anyone in the department that indicated P.O. boxes would be OK.
If the petition is denied, "I guess at that point I'll be out of the election race," Beaulieu said. "But as far as the Warriors for Justice we're still going to be vocal with that."
Paquin and Beaulieu say Bemidji is ripe with institutionalized racism, using as an example construction of the Bemidji Regional Event Center. They say affirmative action laws dictate that a number of minorities - American Indians - be hired and that the contractor and city are ignoring affirmative action laws.
Paquin filed a district court lawsuit against the city and contractor, alleging just that, which was recently dismissed.
Both first tried to seek the DFL endorsement for the two seats, Denied that, they first thought of forcing Persell and Olson to DFL primaries, but later decided on forming their own political party and seek the general election ballot.
"They were very interested in this," Beaulieu said of her visit with ACLU staff in Bemidji. "They agreed with my argument that in the more rural areas, P.O. boxes are accepted and are considered valid. It just happens in my district that the majority of the Leech Lake Reservation falls in that district. To me, that's considered rural."
A lot of people get their mail delivered through the P.O. box on the reservation, she said. "Due to the poverty and the violence there, a lot of the people I got signatures from don't have mailboxes on their house so therefore they go to the post office."
Beaulieu believes there should be an exemption for signatures gained on the reservation.
"I want to do what's right," says Mack. "If there was any doubt, we would err on the side of giving them credit for all the hard work they did, but we can't make rules. It either is or isn't going to be allowable."
Beaulieu said she may try again in 2012, or she may run for chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, but no decision will be made for quite some time. She may try a write-in campaign this fall.
"It couldn't possibly be as hard as running this campaign this time around," she said. "I just feel they're targeting the native Americans, and goes back to the way the districts are aligned."
She hopes that with redistricting, all of the Leech Lake Reservation will be included in one House district rather than two as it is now.
"It's set up so the native Americans cannot unify the vote," she said."We are excluded from decision-making processes."
She says that "we will continue to speak out against this institutionalized racism. It's getting ridiculous and it's getting out of hand."
"When the laws were drafted, they weren't drafted with any specific race, with any specific geographical area or person in mind," Mack said. "Election law just literally wants to be sure that there is one person, one vote, and to precinct them. They have to put them in a physical location for their residence. And that's consistent across all election law."
People can't reside in a P.O. box, Mack said.