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Few issues motivate partisans on either side of the aisle more than the mere mention of the issue of voter fraud. The discussion often goes south, turning into a tit-for-tat over voter suppression versus voter I.D. and integrity.
Besides being one of the most controversial political topics out there, voter fraud is notoriously difficult to nail down and prove in court. When claims come up, they’re often vague and hard to prove.
The polling place chaos created by same day registration on Election Day in general election years like 2016 only makes the task more formidable.
But a meticulously crafted newly filed voter fraud case before the Minnesota Supreme Court goes a long way toward dispelling doubts over whether and how ineligible voters successfully cast ballots in this state.
This News Alert shows why voter fraud may become a key issue again this election cycle in Minnesota.
A new voter fraud case before the Minnesota Supreme Court claims 1,366 ineligible felons have cast at least 1,670 fraudulent votes in recent statewide elections, possibly tipping the outcome of close contests, including the 2008 U.S. Senate race.
The case holds repercussions for the 2016 election with the plaintiffs seeking a court order to prevent state and local election officials from distributing ballots to ineligible voters by implementing new safeguards.
The lawsuit marks the culmination of a years-long effort to challenge suspected voter fraud tied to Minnesota’s same day voting registration law. More than half a million Minnesotans register to vote on Election Day in general election years like 2016.
“For the first time, the State of Minnesota will be put ‘on the stand’ and forced to explain why it thinks it can violate the plain text of the Minnesota Constitution, election statutes, as well as specific court orders and permit individuals to vote who election officials know are ineligible,” said Minnesota Voters Alliance Executive Director Andy Cilek in an email newsletter.
The Minnesota Voters Alliance group behind the challenge alleges the actual number of illegal ballots submitted by ineligible voters far surpasses the 1,670 votes documented through a painstaking search of voting records hampered by a lack of cooperation by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.
MVA found 941 ineligible felons who were allowed to vote in 2008 alone, exceeding the 312 vote margin separating DFL candidate Al Franken and GOP Sen. Norm Coleman after a grueling recount.
Altogether, more than 100,000 Minnesota felons had their right to vote restricted and reported to the Minnesota Secretary of State between 2003 and 2015. But the Minnesota Secretary of State only notifies local election officials of the ineligible status of felons and others if they’re already registered to vote in the Statewide Voter Registration System.
Court papers demonstrate how the incomplete list of ineligible voters provided to local election officials routinely allows felons, wards of the state, immigrants and other ineligible persons to register and vote.
“The 1,366 identified felons who have been permitted to vote is believed to be only a fraction of the true total,” the 110 page court petition filed by MVA and former Rep. Kirk Stensrud states. “Cooperation from the Secretary of State would have allowed for a more complete accounting of the number of ineligible persons who have been permitted to vote.”
Simon has refused to release the data that would enable MVA to verify the actual number of ineligible people that have illegally cast a vote. In holding back the critical government data, Simon has ignored a Minnesota Department of Administration opinion stating that the voting records in question should be made public.
“The Secretary of State plays a significant role with other election officials in permitting known ineligible felons to register or to vote,” court documents state.
The lawsuit also alleges that election officials often allow felons flagged as ineligible in the Statewide Voter Registration System to vote anyway, providing the individual swears eligibility, according to court documents.
In their investigation, MVA determined more than 200 ineligible felons have voted in two of the last four general elections held in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
“There’s a continuing problem in Minnesota with ineligible felons voting and the courts and Secretary of State and election judges haven’t gotten on the same page and these close elections without a doubt are being determined by the votes of ineligible felons,” said Erick Kaardal, MVA’s attorney.
Other states offer provisional ballots to same day registrants that are not tallied until the voter’s eligibility is confirmed.
The Minnesota Secretary of State has until July 15 to file a response on the election fraud case with the Minnesota Supreme Court. Simon did not respond to our inquiry.