Election misinformation at the Legislature — correcting the facts as voting begins | Opinion

June 21, 2022 6:00 am

Voters cast ballots at Brackett Recreation Center in Minneapolis on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The League of Women Voters of Minnesota has been a trusted source of nonpartisan voter registration and education for over 100 years, serving citizens across the state of Minnesota to ensure free, fair and safe elections.

In doing so, we’ve been a longstanding witness to how our trusted local election officials from both parties conduct and verify our elections, and work together to ensure that all votes are correctly counted, using the safeguards we currently have in place. 

As early voting for the August primary election begins June 24, we’d like to correct the misinformation we saw repeated during the 2022 Minnesota legislative session — which is undermining voter confidence and fueling growing hostility toward election officials — with facts about how Minnesota election safeguards protect both voter access and election integrity. 

Several legislators stated repeatedly during floor debates that  “thousands of ineligible voters” have been allowed to cast votes in Minnesota, without offering any evidence for this.

There was specific reference to the Franken-Coleman race of 2008. In reality, this case showcased the safeguards already in place within our election system, including the value of having paper ballots; a process for recounting ballots and addressing grievances; and having the elections process overseen by officials from both political parties.

The final results of that race were able to be properly verified and certified by the State Canvassing Board, as well as upheld by both a 3-judge panel and the Minnesota Supreme Court, without finding “thousands of ineligible voters.”

Furthermore, a 2018 examination conducted on voter registration by the Office of the Legislative Auditor did not reveal significant numbers of ineligible voters, or recommend additional restrictions to voter access. Among their findings:

  • “County attorneys’ reports over an almost two-year period indicated 69 instances of registration or voting by ineligible persons.”
  • “As of August 2017, fewer than half of the charges of persons registering or voting while ineligible, filed over a five-year period, had resulted in conviction (47 of 132 charges with outcomes).”

We educate our members and the general public about these important facts, which should reassure all Minnesotans that our current system has considerable safeguards in place to establish voter identity and protect ballot integrity. City and county election officials ensure that a voter is validly registered to vote, look into challenges, and address any discrepancies in voter registrations. 

Additional safeguards in our system include:

  • Minnesota voters must verify their residence when they register to vote. 
  • Absentee ballots require ID verification and include a unique barcode so that a voter is tied to specific ballot materials.
  • All ballots are opened and counted in bipartisan pairs.
  • A record of ballots received is retained to eliminate double voting.
  • Ballot machines are locally purchased, and bipartisan public tests are conducted daily.
  • Ballot integrity is ensured via a daily 3-step bipartisan matching of the number of ballots issued with the number indicated on the ballot tabulator and the number of physical paper ballots in the box.
  • Same day voter registration requires proof of residence, under threat of perjury (which exempts Minnesota from the Help America Vote Act provisional ballots oversight). 
  • On Election Day, ballots are handed off in bipartisan teams of two.
  • A bipartisan post-election audit is conducted to certify the election.
  • After the audit all ballots are kept in protected storage for 22 months.
  • A public recount and formal complaint process is in place.
  • And… you can also now learn more on the Secretary of State’s website.

So as Minnesota voters start to cast their votes this Friday, they should be reassured that their ballots will be professionally handled by nonpartisan local election officials and bipartisan election judges — our friends and neighbors — who have worked together successfully for decades to help make Minnesota the #1 state for voter turnout.

We urge everyone this election season to refer to the facts and not misinformation and drama about our elections, and come together to support access to free, fair and safe elections that also protect the privacy of our voters and the safety of our election officials.

League of Women Voters is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public. We envision a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate. 

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Michelle Witte
Michelle Witte

Michelle Witte is the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota. She was previously executive director of Merrill Community Arts Center in Woodbury.