Kahn investigation reflects greater issue

Cultural misunderstandings are common as immigration rises.

Hennepin County officials dismissed allegations of voter fraud last week. The claims came from an attorney working on behalf of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who filed a petition late last month claiming that more than 100 people improperly listed their residence at a mailbox center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

The petition automatically triggered an investigation that led county officials to decide that those people will need to re-register to vote at their home address.

Although the Hennepin County Attorney’s office dismissed the allegations, the conflict surrounding the investigation sparked fear within the Somali-American community. The Minnesota Daily reported that many Somali people in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood have never voted before, and now some are hesitant to become politically active due to the punishment for voter fraud.

Kahn has represented the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and the University of Minnesota community for 42 years. Cedar-Riverside has experienced a massive increase in the Somali population in recent decades. The breakout of a civil war in Somalia in the 1990s caused many of the country’s citizens to seek refuge. Now, one in three people with Somali ancestry in the U.S. live in Minnesota.

The controversy comes at a pivotal time for the neighborhood, which elected Somali-American Abdi Warsame to the Minneapolis City Council last year amid concerns of allegedly intimidating behavior from his supporters. Kahn also faces one of her most competitive races yet against Somali-American Mohamud Noor, as she failed to secure the DFL’s endorsement in April. We hope Cedar-Riverside can move on from this controversy without trouble in future elections.

The attorney working on Kahn’s behalf had every reason to file the petition. However, the unintended consequences of the investigation distance Somali-Americans even further.

We hope affected people re-register and other residents voice their opinion in this election, especially given the area’s competitive race.