Peter K. Butler, Appellant,
City of Saint Paul, et al., Respondents.
of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Terence G. O'Brien, Jr., Law Office of Terence G.
O'Brien, PLLC, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.
Lyndsey M. Olson, Saint Paul City Attorney, Anthony G.
Edwards, Assistant City Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for
city election officials did not err in using the statewide
voter registration system to verify that appellant's
petition met statutory signature requirements, and because
appellant did not carry his burden to prove that his petition
met those requirements, the district court properly granted
summary judgment on appellant's challenge to the
rejection of his petition.
GILDEA, CHIEF JUSTICE
question presented in this case is whether city election
officials erred in refusing to put appellant Peter
Butler's petition to amend Saint Paul's City Charter
before the voters in the next election. The City, relying on
the statewide voter registration system ("SVRS"),
concluded that Butler's petition did not have the
required number of signatures and rejected the petition.
Butler asserted that the City's rejection was erroneous,
and he filed an action under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44
(2018) to correct the City's error. The district court
granted the City's motion for summary judgment, and the
court of appeals affirmed. Because we agree that city
election officials did not err in using the SVRS to verify
that Butler's petition met the statutory signature
requirements, and because Butler did not meet his burden to
prove that his petition met statutory requirements, we
City of Saint Paul is a home rule charter city. Minn. Const.
art. XII, § 4 ("Any local government unit when
authorized by law may adopt a home rule charter for its
government."). Amendments to a city charter "may be
proposed . . . by a petition of five percent of the voters of
the local government unit as determined by law" and must
be approved by a majority of voters. Minn. Const. art. XII,
§ 5. Butler and others gathered signatures in support of
a petition to amend section 7.01 of the Saint Paul City
Charter to move city elections from odd- to even-numbered
years. See Saint Paul, Minn., City Charter §
7.01. To place a charter-amendment proposal on the ballot, a
"petition of voters equal in number to five percent of
the total votes cast at the last previous state general
election in the city" is required. Minn. Stat. §
410.12, subd. 1 (2018). The parties agree that Butler's
petition needed 7, 011 signatures to reach the five-percent
petition, which was submitted on July 7, 2017, to the Ramsey
County Elections Office, contained 7, 656 signatures.
Election officials used the SVRS to determine whether the
petition contained a sufficient number of signatures. The
SVRS "is the official record of registered voters."
Minn. Stat. § 201.081, subd. 1(a) (2018). It is
maintained by the secretary of state and lists the name and
registration information of every legally registered voter in
Minnesota. Minn. Stat. § 201.021 (2018). The SVRS is
regularly updated with address-change information provided to
the secretary of state. See Minn. Stat. §
201.13, subd. 3 (2018) (explaining that, in addition to the
list of address changes from the United States Postal
Service, the secretary of state may also regularly obtain
lists from the Department of Public Safety of registered
voters who have applied for a driver's license or state
identification card with a different address). If a signer
did not appear in the SVRS as registered to vote in Saint
Paul, the City rejected that signature.
days after Butler submitted his petition, the Elections
Office sent him a notice of petition insufficiency, informing
him that 1, 790 of the signatures were invalid and that he
had 10 days to file a supplementary petition with the 1, 145
additional signatures necessary to meet the statutory
requirement. See Minn. Stat. § 410.12, subd. 3
(2018) (allowing a petitioner to submit a supplementary
petition within 10 days after receiving notice of an
requested that the Elections Office provide a specific reason
for the invalidity of each signature. As relevant here, the
Elections Office explained that it rejected signatures from
those who were not registered to vote in Saint
did not file a supplementary petition within 10 days.
Instead, he filed a petition in Ramsey County District Court
under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44. Under section 204B.44, a
party may file a petition with the district court to correct
"any wrongful act, omission, or error of any . . .
municipal clerk . . . or any other individual charged with
any duty concerning an election." Minn. Stat. §
204B.44(a)(4). Butler asserted that the City erred by relying
on the SVRS to invalidate signatures and in refusing to put
his proposed charter amendment before the
parties engaged in discovery concerning the invalidated
signatures. Following this process, the City reduced the
number of rejected signatures to 1, 699, which left
Butler's petition 1, ...