Secretary of State rejects Crow Wing County request for 2020 election audit

Simon refuses to do ‘vague and impossibly broad search for unspecified misconduct’

By: - February 3, 2022 8:38 am
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon took to Twitter after Tuesday’s presidential debate to explain Minnesota’s rules on poll watchers. Simon is shown here speaking with city clerk Melissa Kennedy during a public accuracy test of Election Day voting machines in 2018. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

Minnesota’s secretary of state has flatly denied a request by the Crow Wing County Board for an audit of the 2020 election in that county, where activists have been dogging officials for months to look into unspecified claims of fraud.

Convinced there was fraud to be found — and egged on by people like former President Donald Trump, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and a cadre of right-wingers — a group of activists lobbied the central Minnesota county board for months to do more examinations of the election in the county, which Trump won by 30 points. 

After the county attorney said the board had no legal authority to audit the election, four of the five county board members passed a resolution on Jan. 4 asking the secretary of state’s office to “undertake a full forensic audit of all election material and data” of the 2020 election.

The resolution said the board “continues to have faith in the 2020 election results as valid and reliable but it is equally troubling that there are citizens who still have a sincerely held belief that it was not.”

Secretary of State Steve Simon responded to the county in a letter Monday, saying that while he appreciates the “delicate balancing act” the county has undergone in trying to address constituents’ concerns, his office will not do another review of the election.

“Our office will not engage in a vague and impossibly broad search for unspecified misconduct based on anyone’s gut feeling, hunch, or belief — no matter how sincerely held,” Simon said. “The 2020 general election, which took place almost 15 months ago, was fundamentally fair, accurate, honest, and secure across Minnesota.” 

Crow Wing County administrators already did a thorough post-2020 election audit and post-election review and found no irregularities or cause to suspect misconduct. Simon’s office reviewed the work, and found it to be “professional, legal, and precise.”

Those who claim to have actual evidence of potential wrongdoing should share their evidence with a law enforcement agency, Simon said. 

Among those pushing for the audit were Ben Davis, a pastor at the Remnant Ministry Center in Brainerd, who told the board he’s not concerned about the results but wanted to make sure the law was being followed and fraud wasn’t occurring. 

Simon stressed how much of the election is handled by “outstanding local election administrators,” who purchase and test election equipment, order ballots, hire and train election judges, run the absentee balloting process, handle ballot security and count the votes. 

“Our local administrators do much of the hard work of running a successful election,” he wrote. “They do so in an ethical, principled, competent, and non-political way.” 

Simon said Minnesota has displayed election integrity and consistently posts stellar voter turnout rates.

“There is no legitimate reason to second-guess the integrity of the 2020 election in Crow Wing County,” Simon wrote. “The county has already done its duty with great skill, and the system worked as it was designed – and as the public has every right to expect.”

Simon said there’s cause for optimism about democracy in Minnesota and America, but short term, the nation has “serious challenges” — chiefly, the spread of disinformation about the election system. 

“Too many people have been misled by the deceptions of those with a political or financial motive to corrode confidence in our democracy,” Simon wrote. “Meanwhile, foreign adversaries not only cheer our disunity – but actively encourage it by helping to spread lies about our election system through multiple channels. It’s all so poisonous, and it needs to stop. I believe it will stop – if enough of us stand up to it.”

The county commissioners did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.