Rep. Thompson’s eligibility mystery casts doubt on the integrity of Minnesota’s elections

Every American who is eligible to vote ought to be able to do so. That is a fundamental principle of this republic. And they have the right for those votes not to be devalued by ballots cast fraudulently.

I do not know what the scale of this problem is. I suspect that in many cases it is overblown. But, as a recent report by my colleague Bill Walsh shows, in Minnesota, it is likely that the problem is not non-existent.

Saying this is likely to elicit a strong response. Minnesota’s Secretary of State Steve Simon called the 2020 election a “tremendous success” and dismissed claims to the contrary as “foolish and irresponsible” and “unworthy of attention.” But the recent controversy surrounding Rep. John Thompson calls this into question.

A brief recap. From MPR News:

On July 4, St. Paul police pulled Thompson over for not having a front license plate on his car. He presented a Wisconsin driver’s license. 

According to Fox 9, Rep. Thompson renewed his Wisconsin license in November 2020, the same month he was elected to the Minnesota House to represent district 67A in East Saint Paul. As MPR News reports:

Wisconsin licenses are only issued to Wisconsin residents. Thompson listed a Wisconsin address as his place of residence when renewing it.  

But, according to Fox 9:

Minnesota law requires legislators to maintain residency in their district for 30 days before the general election and attest to their address of residence on their filing paperwork.

As the Minnesota Reformer reports:

…a St. Paul address in [Rep. Thompson’s] House District 67A was written on his affidavit, and then crossed out and a box checked asking that it be kept private. The form says by checking the box, he was certifying that a “police report has been submitted or I have an order for protection for my or my family’s safety.” Their address can also be kept confidential if they’re part of the state Safe at Home program, a statewide address confidentiality program for people who fear for their safety due to things like domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. The candidate then provides the address on a separate form that is kept confidential by the secretary of state.

But, from Fox 9 again:

A spokesman for Secretary of State Steve Simon said he would not release a secondary document on which Thompson did attest his address.

There is a further confusion reported by WCCO:

WCCO looked at a copy of the ticket issued by St. Paul police to Thompson. On the ticket, it says his home address is on Blair Avenue in St. Paul. The problem is that this house is not in his district, and state law requires state representatives to live in their district. 

In short, it is far from clear whether, when he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives last November, John Thompson was even eligible to run for that seat.

The Minnesota Reformer reports that:

Former Secretary of State, now-state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R- Big Lake, called on current Secretary of State Steve Simon to explain whether Thompson’s residency was verified when he filed for candidacy last spring.

Simon explained in a letter to Kiffmeyer that state law allows candidates to keep their addresses confidential and limits his office’s authority to verify that candidates live in the district in which they’re running. But the candidates must sign an affidavit — a sworn statement under penalty of perjury — verifying the address. Signing a false affidavit would be a crime, investigated by law enforcement, not Simon’s office. Lying on a Wisconsin driver’s license application is also considered perjury.

“The law does not provide our office investigative or law enforcement powers of the kind that your letter suggests,” Simon wrote to Kiffmeyer. “We don’t have guns or badges.”

This is not good enough. Secretary Simon was happy enough to declare November’s elections a success; he must now back that up. He has been quick to dismiss concerns that some of those voting might not be eligible to do so. How can we be so sure when he can’t even ensure that the people running​ are eligible to do so?

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.