Election officials, Republicans push back on MN GOP claim of ‘extreme abnormalities’ in election results

Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

Minnesota election officials and some Republicans are pushing back against unfounded claims of voting abnormalities made by Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan on Thursday night.

In a statement, Carnahan alleged six counties — Anoka, Carver, Scott, Sherburne, St. Louis and Wright —  show “extreme abnormalities and statistical variations from Minnesota’s historic voter trends.”

Minnesota’s Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office issued a scathing statement for making the allegations at all.

“It’s hard to respond to allegations that are so vague and unformed. The bottom line is you can’t just throw out conjecture and guesswork without real evidence,” said Risikat Adesaogun, a spokewoman for Simon’s office. “The place to raise issue with elections administration is through the court system, not social media.”

The unclear and partially false allegations are part of a national strategy to discount President Trump’s loss, but they also put Republicans in a difficult position: step out of line with the party or question the integrity of local election officials, many from Republican-leaning counties.

Republicans currently in office are largely choosing to say nothing at all, but some former legislators and operatives are criticizing the chairwoman for dwelling on the loss of President Donald Trump, who came in 7 points behind President-elect Joe Biden in Minnesota.

“It’s reckless and irresponsible,” said Andy Brehm, a lifelong Republican and former press secretary for U.S. Sen. Norman Coleman. “When party leaders just throw this out there, it is very dangerous … It’s probably a good idea for us to think of our brand. The Trump brand doesn’t work statewide in Minnesota.”

Amy Koch, a former GOP Minnesota Senate majority leader, similarly pushed back on Carnahan’s claims on Twitter.

Koch, who grew up in Wright County and represented the Buffalo area in the Senate, spoke up in defense of local election officials.

“Is the Chair suggesting Wright County Auditor Bob Hiivala isn’t on the up and up?” Koch wrote. “I have had poll watchers for my campaigns at every precinct. I was (sic) worked in WC for the 2008 recount. I can assure you he runs a tight ship.”

Brian McClung, former spokesman and deputy chief of staff to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the last Republican to win statewide in Minnesota 14 years ago, called Carnahan’s claims “far fetched” and also pointed out Carnahan “appears to be calling into question the integrity of election officials in Anoka County, Wright County, etc.”

Elections officials for Wright, Sherburne and Anoka counties said the Minnesota GOP had not contacted them directly about any concerns with their election results, and each said their counts are accurate.

“I don’t have any indication that there were abnormalities,” said Hiivala, auditor and treasurer for Wright County. “There’s a lot that goes into it, but it was done right.”

“The numbers are what they are. We have correct numbers,” said Diane Arnold, auditor and treasurer for Sherburne County.

“Anoka County does not have any cause to suspect issues that would call into question the integrity or validity of votes,” said Paul Linnell, elections manager for Anoka County.

Officials from the other three counties could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.
Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.