A St. Paul man's mission to move municipal elections to even-numbered years fell short at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which ruled Monday that a District Court judge was correct in dismissing his petition to put the measure on the ballot.
In July 2017, Highland Park resident Peter Butler submitted a petition with 7,656 signatures in support of amending the city charter and moving municipal elections to even-numbered years to the Ramsey County Elections Office.
Under state law, Butler needed 7,011 signatures — or 5 percent of total votes cast in the city during the 2016 general election — for the charter amendment to appear on the ballot.
Ramsey County Elections cross-referenced the petition with the Statewide Voter Registration System and determined that fewer than 6,000 of the signatures were valid, according to the appellate court decision. Butler had the option to submit additional signatures or information within 10 days, but instead decided to challenge the decision in district court, alleging that the elections office had made a mistake.
Ramsey County Elections reviewed Butler's petition three more times and found more valid signatures, but not enough to get the measure on the ballot, the appeals court decision said. The district court granted a summary judgment and dismissed Butler's challenge last year.
Butler did not respond to requests for comment. In May, he filed a separate lawsuit against the city alleging that its new organized trash collection system violates the Waste Management Act; a Ramsey County judge dismissed that suit in October.
In its decision Monday, the appeals court wrote that Butler had to show that Ramsey County Elections made a mistake, and he failed to do so.
"Appellant failed to produce admissible evidence that respondents' reliance on the [Statewide Voter Registration System] amounted to an error, omission, or wrongful act," the decision said. "We see no error by the district court."
In an e-mailed statement, City Attorney Lyndsey Olson said "the City is happy with the court of appeals decision."
"The Ramsey County Elections Office put forward a tremendous amount of work to review the petition and demonstrate compliance with their statutory duties," she said.
This year, the entire St. Paul City Council is up for election.