MN county to increase scrutiny of returns post-election

It doesn’t go far enough to satisfy the most ardent skeptics of the election process. But after months of hearing them out, Crow Wing County commissioners have agreed to increase the number of precincts where vote totals will be double-checked following the election on November 8.

Commissioners in the north central Minnesota county have bent over backwards to give a core group of residents focused on election integrity a forum for their concerns at numerous board meetings. The Brainerd Dispatch says the move amounts to an effort to shore up public confidence in an electoral system that’s been shaken in some quarters following the 2020 election.

The post-election review process in Crow Wing County this November will include hand counting results in twice as many precincts as required by state law.

In a 4-1 vote, county commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 23, agreed to increase the number of randomly selected precincts in which state and federal races are reviewed after the general election from the state law-required two to four. The resolution also compelled cast vote records — or records of votes cast for candidates on each paper ballot fed through optical scanner voting machines on Election Day — to be produced as public record.

Counties with less than 50,000 registered voters must verify the votes cast via hand count in two randomly selected precincts under state law. The expanded post-election review in Crow Wing County comes despite the commissioners’ stated confidence in the process.

Commissioner Rosemary Franzen reiterated the resolution does not reflect commissioners’ own concerns about the integrity of the election system but instead is an attempt to assuage the skepticism of constituents.

“As county commissioners, we’ve all stated that we don’t have any concerns about election integrity,” Franzen said. “But we have a lot of concerned citizens and I want to make sure that everybody’s concerns are met.”

To meet those concerns, county officials also recently invited residents to view the public testing of voting machines that will tabulate votes this fall. Yet not everyone in the meeting supported increasing post-election scrutiny of the results.

“We thank you today for warding off rumors and unfounded claims, and instead affirming the strong evidence that you have at your disposal from across the political spectrum that show that our Crow Wing County elections were, and remain, fair and accurate,” [League of Women Voters chapter president Becky] LaPlante read. “Indeed, the most powerful evidence of all rests in your own post-election audits, which demonstrate Crow Wing County’s 100% accuracy in the 2020 elections.”

Evidently even the Crow Wing County Board has a limit. The resolution to double the number of precincts for post-election review included a provision to end further board discussion of election issues until after November 8. Perhaps not surprisingly, that also created controversy.

“I don’t agree with you at all, with that statement. I was elected by the people to listen to the people,” [Commissioner Rosemary] Franzen said to applause.

“Thank you for that, I appreciate it, and for 11 months, we’ve all listened to these people,” [Commissioner Steve] Barrows replied.

“And I will continue to listen until people quit talking,” Franzen continued to another round of applause.