Ramsey County officials have discovered 318 absentee ballots that were properly cast but not counted in election returns two weeks ago.

Under state law, the deadline to automatically count those ballots has passed, but county officials said they didn't believe the additional ballots could flip any of the races, based on where the voters lived.

Nevertheless, they were notifying 131 candidates affected by the error — including President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, who won the presidential contest — and telling them they have the right to go to district court to have the ballots added to the certified results.

The county's Canvassing Board acknowledged the "obvious error" at an emergency meeting Wednesday, and county Elections Manager David Triplett apologized to the 318 voters on behalf of the county. For now, their ballots remain unopened and stored in a secured location.

According to a statement from the board, the 318 absentee ballots were cast on Saturday, Oct. 31, at the Ramsey County elections office in St. Paul. The ballots were discovered Friday — 10 days after the election — as part of a postelection review process, when staffers found them in signature envelopes in a sealed box.

"The box was properly labeled as requiring processing but had been misplaced in an area of a secure storage facility designated for sealed boxes of processed ballots," according to the canvassing board. No other errors were found, the board said.

The absentee ballots were cast for 71 precincts in St. Paul, eight precincts in Maplewood, and one precinct each in North St. Paul, Roseville, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake and White Bear Township.

Using precinct information, county officials calculated the number of votes that the 318 ballots would add to races. At the top end, they would add 124 votes to the District 65 race where DFL Sen. Sandy Pappas won more than 80% of nearly 39,000 votes cast, and 85 votes to the District 67 race where DFL Sen. Foung Hawj won nearly 74% of more than 32,000 votes.

In House races, the uncounted ballots would add 97 votes to the race in District 65B, where DFL Rep. Carlos Mariani won with 80% of the vote, and 59 votes in the District 67B race, which DFL Rep. Jay Xiong won with 76%.

According to county figures, 297,159 Ramsey County voters cast ballots in the 2020 general election. Of that total, 103,614 voters cast ballots in person on Election Day — nearly 35% — while 193,545 cast absentee or early votes.

Members of the Canvassing Board include Commissioners Toni Carter and Trista MatasCastillo, St. Paul City Clerk Shari Moore, County Deputy Auditor Heather Bestler and Deputy Court Administrator Michael Upton.

"This is an obvious example of the system working. This is why we conduct audits," MatasCastillo said at Wednesday's meeting. "We believe strongly that every vote should be counted. Though it's an unfortunate error, it is great that we have found the error before the state final canvassing is conducted next week."