The Potluck

GOP state auditor candidate says he got into a car chase with an election judge in 2020. The police report tells a slightly different story. 

By: - July 11, 2022 9:00 am

Republican candidate Ryan Wilson reported to St. Paul Police that an election judge didn’t go straight to an election center with ballots after the November 2020 election. Photo by Deena Winter

Editor’s note: Due to a technical error, a previous version of this story was briefly published before it was completely written and edited. It was missing comments from Ryan Wilson.   

Ryan Wilson, the GOP-endorsed candidate for state auditor, tells a fantastical story about Election Day in 2020 to show his commitment to a fair vote:

According to a recording of Wilson’s May comments to the Liberty Tea Party Patriots in Champlin, he was working as a “Republican lawyer for Trump” on Election Day. Both parties send volunteers to monitor the polls, and that day, lawyers were dispatched to “hotspots” around the nation.

After the polls closed, he was assigned to watch a St. Paul election judge to make sure he took the ballots straight to the election center. But the election judge didn’t go straight there. Wilson followed him to his home, where he watched the man pull into his garage, walk into his house and turn the lights on, Wilson said.

The man came out, saw Wilson sitting in an SUV and recognized him from earlier that night when they’d spoken, Wilson said.

“He doesn’t say anything, hightails it, turns around, goes back in the house,” Wilson said.

A couple of minutes later, the man opened the garage door and “flies out of there.”

Wilson described to the Tea Party group a cinematic chase scene: 

“And he basically tries to lose us. So my driver wasn’t going to let him lose us. He’s running yellow lights, we are running red lights, we’re following him. Eventually, he turns around and gives up, and decides to go to the election center. So we follow him all the way to the election center and at this point, it is becoming a really big deal,” Wilson said. “This is the kind of story if there is a recount in Minnesota, this throws it all into question, right? What happened to those ballots during those 15 minutes it was in his garage? Nobody knows. We filed a police report, and it was a big deal at the time.”

During a Reformer interview, Wilson provided a more subdued version. “It was all weird for both of us. I was just supposed to follow him. He was supposed to go there.”

And it didn’t sound like there was much of a car chase in his retelling of the story.

“He wasn’t speeding off but… he’d go through lights and then the lights would change, and it’s like, what are we going to do? Like we had one job: To follow the chain of custody.”

Asked whether it was really the car chase he described in Champlin, Wilson said lights were turning yellow as he was following the man, and he thinks the man was trying to elude him.

“When we left his place we definitely weren’t going to the elections center,” Wilson said. The man could not be reached for comment.

Wilson said the GOP “election integrity” folks told him to file a police report just to document it, so he did.

The police report obtained by the Reformer has more details, as well as some discrepancies. 

It says the election judge parked in his driveway, not his garage, and Wilson rolled down his window and asked if he was the election judge he’d talked to earlier in the night. 

The man walked up to him, and Wilson said “What is your plan? I am assigned to watch the ballot box, and make sure it gets to the Minnesota election center.”

The man said he was waiting for his wife, who was also an election judge, and they were going to ride together to the election center. Wilson told police he watched the man take the black bag of ballots from his trunk and put it in his garage, then walked outside and paced back-and-forth. The man seemed nervous, Wilson told police.

Wilson said he’s “pretty sure” he remembers the man pulling into the garage rather than parking in the driveway, and then came up to his car twice.

“It was pretty dark and chaotic,” Wilson said. “It was definitely an odd encounter.”

A few minutes later, the man walked back to Wilson and said he changed his mind and was just going to drive himself to the election center, and then did so. There’s no mention in the police report of a chase. Asked about that, Wilson said he can’t account for why the officer didn’t include that in the report. 

“Maybe he’s just a fast driver,” Wilson said.

The city attorney reviewed the case, and determined no crime was committed. 

Overall, Wilson said having people like him watching the polls helps instill trust in elections.

“The more people are watching the elections, the more confidence people can have,” he said. “The more eyes, the more trust.”

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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.