The Potluck

MN GOP will use electronic voting system at state convention despite candidate concerns

By: - May 9, 2022 1:44 pm

A MN GOP party volunteer tallies votes in the straw poll for governor at the Republican precinct caucus in Chanhassen High School on Feb. 1, 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The chairman of the state Republican Party says despite “concerns and  suggestions,” the party will use an electronic voting system rather than paper ballots at its state convention.

More than 2,220 delegates will gather this weekend in Rochester to endorse candidates for governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor. Some candidates and activists have demanded the party use paper ballots — like the ones voters fill out in Minnesota elections, which are then fed into a machine that reads them — because they don’t trust electronic machines.

Gubernatorial candidate Neil Shah is one of the candidates who pushed for paper, saying election integrity is one of his top concerns.

“These machines have absolutely no place here,” he said during a recent forum. “The machines have to go.”

The skepticism toward voting machines likely stems from the 2020 election, when prominent Republicans made wild and unsupported allegations that voting machines were hacked to steal the election from former President Donald Trump.

Voting machine companies Dominium and Smartmatic responded with billions of dollars in defamation lawsuits against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell and Minnesota pillow mogul Mike Lindell.

Powell’s legal defense of her claims has included that “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.”

Shah blasted the party for errors in its Feb. 1 precinct caucuses, in which there were discrepancies between the number of people who attended the caucuses and the number who voted.

“I thought the party for election integrity wanted the machines out — I guess not,” Shah said. “How can we get out in front of the Democrats when we’re using electronic voting machines at our state convention, and we can’t even get our vote right in our caucus … Let’s clean up our house.”

The dustup was first reported by former GOP operative Michael Brodkorb on Twitter.

State Republican Party Chair David Hann said putting together a safe, secure convention is a top priority, and it’s key that the party endorse a slate of Republican candidates for statewide constitutional offices to better ensure a unified ticket for the November election.

Hann said electronic voting is necessary because the party has limited time to conduct the convention, when 14 statewide campaigns are seeking endorsement.

Hann blamed concerns about electronic voting on people who want to undermine the party’s goal of conducting its business efficiently.

“Many of these voices are doing so out of an attempt to keep the convention deadlocked, unable to give our delegates the opportunity to have their voices heard in endorsing candidates,” Hann said.

The state GOP plans to use electronic voting technology by Padgett Communications, which Hann said has handled large voting events nationwide since 1995 and is “reliable, accurate and secure.” It doesn’t rely on mobile apps or wireless internet access, he said. The company will have a team on site for support.

Hann said the online voting system that failed at the 2020 state convention is not comparable to the system the party plans to use this weekend.

“We understand that no system is foolproof – even paper or scanned ballots could be vulnerable to tampering, human error and more,” Hann said.  “Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, we will be prepared to use paper ballots as a backup in an emergency.”

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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.