Flaw could allow 2 votes

A registration flaw lets residents vote in their home state and with absentee ballots.

Kari Petrie

Out-of-state students’ votes could mean twice as much in the upcoming presidential election.

A flaw in voting systems in the United States allows people who recently moved to a new state to file absentee ballots for their home states and possibly vote again in a Minnesota precinct.

“That’s pretty sneaky,” said first-year nursing student Nicole Robertson.

The problem occurs because there is no national voting registration system, Erin Sivula, a Hennepin County elections clerk said. Election officials, however, have taken some steps to catch violators.

Voting twice is a felony with a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and five years in jail.

Philosophy and math sophomore John Colombo said he has heard of the problem, and thinks it needs to be fixed. Yet, he said he doubts any political group would try to exploit the flaw to get its candidate elected.

“It would be too difficult,” Colombo said. “It’s not going to be a big deal (in the upcoming election), but it needs to be addressed.”

It would be possible to catch most people who try to vote twice, Ramsey County Election Manager Joe Mansky said, with a program that allows states to exchange voter registration information.

Each month, election officials receive registration information from other states, Mansky said. Officials compare state-provided voters’ identification numbers with their own numbers to see if anyone is registered in two places and if they voted.

Identification numbers are either the voter’s driver’s license number or the last four digits of his or her Social Security number.

If election officials discover someone voted twice, they pass the information to county attorneys for possible prosecution.

Sophomore Lea Sachs, a Wisconsin native, said she would never consider voting twice.

“It’s sad that people consider cheating the system like that,” she said.

Minnesota voting officials are also taking steps to prevent voter fraud within the state.

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office created a new voting-registration system that will catch people who try to vote twice within the state, said Kent Kaiser, a spokesman for the office.

When a person registers to vote in a new precinct, his or her information is put into the system and any other prior registrations become invalid, he said.

Kaiser said he knew of a couple of instances in which Minnesota college students had voted twice. The students were caught and reprimanded, he said.