The Potluck

State GOP acknowledges errors in precinct data as more candidates call for ‘pause’

By: - February 16, 2022 12:20 pm

Some 248 Republican activists gathered in Chanhassen High School on Feb. 1, 2022 as part of the precinct caucuses. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The state Republican Party said it is working through errors in data released to statewide candidates following the Feb. 1 precinct caucuses, delaying campaigns even as they prep for local conventions set to begin this weekend.

The state party released data to campaigns Friday showing there were 35,196 attendees at the Feb. 1 precinct caucuses, but only 17,801 people voted in the straw ballot for governor, prompting some candidates for secretary of state and governor to question the results and call for a postponement of local conventions. Normally, the numbers of caucus attendees and straw poll voters are comparable.

GOP Chair David Hann released a statement Tuesday saying the party held a call Monday with all the statewide campaigns to let them know the party was aware of the errors and had a plan to correct them. 

Some caucus data from a certain area unintentionally included the names of people who attended previous caucuses but didn’t attend the Feb. 1 caucus, Hann said. The delegate and attendee information is being corrected, he said. 

“Those submissions, made by local volunteers, were not intentional, malicious, or related to any campaign,” Hann said, noting that precinct caucuses are a grassroots operation, organized and run by more than 120 local GOP organizations statewide. 

The state party also discovered an erroneous data entry in the Morrison County list, which Hann said has been corrected and re-sent to the campaigns.

On Monday, North Oaks dermatologist Neil Shah, a Republican candidate for governor, accused a staffer for gubernatorial candidate Paul Gazelka of deliberately omitting a significant number of delegates and adding names of people to the delegate list who didn’t attend the caucus in Morrison County, even though attendance is required to be considered a delegate.

The Morrison County GOP announced Wednesday it will postpone the county convention “to work through all this.”

Gazelka declined to comment on pausing conventions or Shah’s allegation, saying he’s going to let the state party work through the issues. A spokesperson for Sen. Michelle Benson, a Ham Lake Republican who is running for governor, said Benson had no comment on the issue. 

Shah has called for a “full forensic audit” of the GOP caucus data and the release of the original delegate signup sheets from the precinct caucuses. He also demanded that local conventions — scheduled to begin Friday — be postponed until March to allow time for an audit of delegate signup sheets.

Attendees at those conventions will determine who will be delegates to the state GOP convention in May, when the party gathers to endorse a candidate for governor and other statewide offices. 

Republican secretary of state candidate Kelly Jahner-Byrne has also called for postponing local conventions while verifying voter lists.

Another Republican candidate for governor, Kendall Qualls, on Tuesday joined Shah in calling for a pause in the convention process to give time for the data to be corrected. Qualls got into the race late, on Jan. 9, and could benefit from more time. 

Qualls said “fraud and errors are prevalent.” 

The races would normally begin after legislative and congressional redistricting maps were released Tuesday, but now the state Republican Party is being delayed in giving voter data to candidates to merge into the new maps and begin organizing. 

Hann said the period from the caucuses to the first conventions is short, and complicated by the fact that all the local party unit boundaries and delegate allocations were affected by redistricting. 

Qualls said it’s important that Republicans get their own house in order. A segment of Republicans have been energized to change election laws as former President Donald Trump and his followers continue to erroneously claim the 2020 election was stolen from him. 

Qualls noted that Republicans have called for audits nationwide to restore voters’ faith in the electoral process. Sometimes those calls continued even after audits showed vote tallies were accurate all along. 

“How else can we as a party claim to stand up for election integrity when there are issues that we ourselves are facing behind closed doors? We need immediate action to dispel these fears,” Qualls said. 

Updated at 2:47 p.m. Wednesday. 

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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.