Worried about voter fraud? This bill would actually help

While the debate over voter fraud and the “big lie” continues across the country, a relatively minor bill moved through a Senate committee this week that could do more to expose voter fraud than anything else being considered. The bill, SF 3665, adds much-needed clarity to the classification of data in the statewide voter file as public or private.

The bill seeks to fix a problem created by the Minnesota Supreme Court when they sided with Secretary of State Steve Simon in a dispute over challenged ballots. Challenged ballots are identified by counties when red flags are raised about the eligibility of voters who registered to vote on election day. One of the biggest flaws in Minnesota’s voting system is allowing same day registrants to vote before verifying their eligibility.

Simon was sued by the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) after refusing to make public the list of challenged ballots, claiming it was non-public data under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.  The case centered on legislative intent regarding this data. Normally, all data is considered public unless the legislature specifically deems it non-public. In the case of election data, the legislature has been very specific about when election data is non-public, such as to protect the identity of people who fear for their safety because of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

MVA won in District Court and their victory was unanimously affirmed on appeal by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Slam dunk. Until Simon appealed once again, to the Minnesota Supreme Court. A majority consisting of judges appointed by Mark Dayton reversed the lower court decisions, hanging their hat on the word “may.” Simon may make the data public, but he doesn’t have to.

Sen. Koran’s bill explicitly spells out for Secretary Simon, the Supreme Court and the public which data is public and which data is private. No more ambiguity. If it passes, groups investigating voter fraud like the MVA will have access to the list of voters who registered to vote on election day but were subsequently flagged by the county. If there is voter fraud occurring in Minnesota, this is the first place to look.

Which is probably why Simon is going to such great lengths to keep the data private. He sent a letter to the Senate Elections Committee opposing the bill using a straw man argument about voter privacy:

This legislation’s intent to make public what is now sensitive and private information will be harmful to Minnesota voters and could open our county officials to liability if a challenge was applied inaccurately. 

Simon is arguing that a voter’s criminal record or citizenship status is “sensitive and private” and should be protected. He is also concerned about county officials being held accountable for doing their jobs — good! If there are felons or non-citizens voting, the public needs to know about it. And if the county attorneys are not doing their job, the public certainly needs to know about it.

There is nothing stopping the Secretary of State from releasing the data in question right now. Short of that, SF 3665 should become law to expose fraud and add transparency to the voting process.

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