Despite low voter fraud, Minnesota still takes preventative measures

by Libby George

>But this kind of fraud is not prevalent in Minnesota because of preventative measures and state legislation, said Minnesotan political representatives.

“I think that we’re leap years ahead of other states in terms of voter fraud,” said Bill Walsh, Minnesota Republican Party communications director.

“In Minnesota we have the highest degree of access,” said Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. “That’s been our focus for years.”

But Kiffmeyer, Walsh and others say they feel there are still unresolved issues in the state’s electoral process.

“There are problems,” Walsh said. “It’s mostly procedural, and we are going to spend a lot of time and money in ensuring laws are followed.”

Both cited same-day voter registration and vouching as problem areas.

“On the sheer word of another voter in that precinct, a voter with no identification can get a ballot and vote, and there is no limit to how many people they can vouch for,” Kiffmeyer said.

Kiffmeyer said she has spoken out against the vouching system but added it could be made obsolete by the Help America Vote Act, a measure before Congress which would require all voters to provide photo identification.

“That (photo identification) could speed the voting process and increase integrity,” Kiffmeyer said.

She said a case was recently brought to her attention where a non-citizen student was able to vote, and she said she felt this sort of fraud could also be countered with a photo identification requirement.

Political parties are also taking an active role to counter fraud and ensure laws are followed. On Election Day, both Republican and Democratic parties will send “poll watchers” to cover election sites.

“The roll of the poll watcher is to observe the election process and to potentially challenge fraud they see going on,” said Jim Hansen, constitutional candidate service coordinator for the Minnesota Republican Party.

“We think the integrity of the election is essential in the democracy, and we think political parties should help with this,” Hansen said.

Jim Farrell, spokesman for Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., said he agreed that poll watchers are important.

“You’ve seen what the Republicans have done in Florida,” Farrell said. “Minnesota is not Florida, but you always have to protect the integrity of the election.”

Kiffmeyer said the state is also taking action to make sure officials know and follow laws.

“We have increased the training of officials at the state, county and local level to know what the law says and how to follow that law,” Kiffmeyer said.

Contributing to Minnesota’s ability to curb voter fraud is its exemption from The National Voter Registration Act of 1994, or the “motor voter” law, which experts cite as the cause of cases of fraud such as those in St. Louis.

“Minnesota is exempt from the worst aspects of the ‘motor voter’ law because we have same-day voter registration,” Kiffmeyer said.

“(The law) makes it very difficult to keep a clean voter registration list, and because of that you can accumulate a lot of names that could be used for mischief,” she said.

Kiffmeyer said Minnesota also recently updated its computer system so that it can print a duplicate sheet that lists any name that voted twice or a large amount of people who voted from the same address.

“From 2.8 million voters, it helps us to narrow things down and to troubleshoot,” Kiffmeyer said.

Farrell also cited other election tactics as fraudulent, such as keeping trackers – party emissaries who film opponents’ speeches and public appearances – out of events.

“We have a real need to cover the events because (Norm Coleman) changes his position all the time,” Farrell said.

“We send trackers to tape (Coleman’s) public speeches and press conferences and they do the same for us,” Farrell said.

Libby George covers national politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]