Star Tribune – Ending Division, Restoring Confidence

Kim Crockett - October 28, 2022 Opinion Exchange

October 28, 2022 – 5:45 PM

Americans are fighting about elections; it’s disrupting families, friendships and our civil society. This discord did not start in 2020 or even 2016. It has been going on for years and it has to stop.

Some of the divide is purely ideological. But some of it is caused by how we vote and how we count the vote. To calm things down, Minnesota needs election laws that inspire rock-solid confidence so when the votes have been counted, we can all look at each other and say, “That was fair, and I trust the outcome.”

Minnesotans do their job by turning out to vote; we like flexibility and options. But is Secretary of State Simon doing his job to make sure your vote counts? You decide.

Minnesota doesn’t require photo ID to vote, even though doing so enjoys widespread support. In America, a majority of states require ID of some kind. Even the DFL required photo ID for its state convention.

Let’s help everyone obtain the ID needed for conventions, banking, medical appointments, applying for a job, etc. Then, when Election Day comes, all voters will be prepared.

In 2018, the respected Office of Legislative Auditor (OLA) reviewed same-day voter registration, which Secretary Simon calls the “crown jewel” of Minnesota election policy. But the OLA found serious flaws in that jewel, writing: “Registration and voting practices that increase access to voting may inadvertently allow ineligible persons to vote.”

If you can believe it, Minnesota does not confirm the eligibility of people who register at the polls. In 2016, 335,000 people registered on Election Day. It was discovered later that the eligibility to vote had been challenged for 26,000 of them, and some were felons. But their votes had already been counted.

A registered voter can “vouch” for someone who walks into a precinct with no ID or proof of residence. I call this the “Ole and Lena Rule.” We can smile at Minnesota’s faith in the honesty of Minnesotans, but in 2016, vouching accounted for 20,000 voters (6% of same-day registrants).

“Challenged voters” can sign an oath of eligibility. According to the OLA, “at least 400 people challenged for a felony conviction voted after completing the oath … some of these persons were still serving a sentence, but others were not.”

Errors and fraud are to be expected, but not on this scale. Let’s keep same-day registration but follow the lead of 47 states that use “provisional ballots” (counted when eligibility is established).

Simon and DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison have not prioritized enforcing laws against ineligible voters. They argue unpersuasively that there are few fraud convictions and therefore there is little fraud. Do you think the number of DWI convictions reflects the full number of people who drive under the influence?

Even though it is a felony to register to vote or to vote while ineligible, charges are rarely brought, and when they are, the charge is often reduced to non-felony status. Why?

Simon has also failed to modernize the statewide voter registration system, or to insist that county officials keep the voter rolls clean and accurate, despite the OLA urging him to do so.

In just six counties, a watchdog found 515 people with duplicate registrations, including a convicted sex offender who voted twice in 2020. I’ve received copies of registration cards for deceased family members and people who have never lived at the registered address.

Simon pushes absentee voting without zealously guarding ballot security; he welcomes drop boxes and is openly hostile to election judges from the major parties performing the critical task of reviewing ballots, even calling them “unnecessary partisans.” Instead, he urges officials to deputize staff.

Europe experimented with absentee voting; most nations have either banned it altogether or set strict limits because of fraud. And all of Europe, except the U.K., requires photo ID. The European approach is noteworthy because like the U.S. it is politically divided; but unlike the U.S., they are not fighting about who won elections.

Americans are tired of division; ending that division starts with fair and secure elections. Then we can focus on a better education for our kids, ending violence in our streets and making daily life affordable again. I promise to work hard to keep flexibility and options while making sure that every eligible vote counts, and humbly ask for your vote.

Kim Crockett is the Republican candidate for secretary of state.

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