Secretary of State Steve Simon on Tuesday blasted questions from Republicans at the Legislature he said are bolstering dangerous conspiracy theories intended to discredit the administration of elections systems in Minnesota and across the country.
“This hearing is not taking place in a vacuum. It is taking place in the middle of a national tidal wave of disinformation,” Simon said. “I will not at this hearing amplify or dignify conspiracy theories.”
Simon, the state’s top elections official, testified before a Republican-led state Senate committee hearing called to review the administration and security of the 2020 election, based on anecdotal reports of voting irregularities.
The hearing comes more than a week after Minnesota certified its election results, which showed President Donald Trump lost Minnesota to President-elect Joe Biden by more than 233,000 votes. Led by Trump, some Republicans continue clinging to claims of voting irregularities or a rigged election, without providing evidence, including Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.
Simon said his own family, as well as election officials in other states, have been the subjects of violent threats based on baseless claims of election fraud. “Those lies are tearing us apart,” he said. “They are poisoning our democracy.”
He added: “Any member regardless of party, or testifer, regardless of viewpoint, who indulges that kind of recklessness, who tolerates it, who encourages it, or even hints at it, is, I must say, coating themselves in a shame that will never ever wash off.”
State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, called the hearing after previously sending a lengthy list of questions to Simon’s office that asked, among other topics, for a list of all election hardware, security and ballot tabulating procedures.
She said Simon’s Dec. 1 response answered many, but not all of her questions, which is why she called the hearing. “It is certainly appropriate for us to be able to ask those questions as well, and by the way without being accused of nefarious motives, just because we are asking the questions.”
Kiffmeyer said she rejected Simon’s assertion that asking questions about elections is “in and of itself is some sort of shameful activity.”
Simon, who spoke for about 30 minutes, also took questions from other state senators, including state Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, who asked whether Simon would support a “forensic” audit of the election.
Simon said it was unclear what a forensic audit would entail, asking Howe specifically what such a proposal would do. He did not commit to the proposal but said he would discuss the idea with Howe in private.