Minnesota’s current Election Day registration system lies in the hands of a federal judge, who on Friday heard arguments from a conservative activist group seeking to strengthen procedures for determining voter eligibility. Erick Kaardal, attorney for the Minnesota Voters Alliance and several political candidates, argued that state election officials are not adequately ensuring that felons and wards of the state who are ineligible to vote are turned away from the polls. This so-called “vote dilution” from counting allegedly ineligible ballots could have had a significant effect on the extremely close elections in Minnesota during the last two cycles, he said. And the alliance is concerned about voter verification procedures for the November election, which includes the presidential race and the fate of constitutional amendments on Voter ID and on marriage. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and elections officials from Ramsey, Chisago and Crow Wing counties are all named defendants in the suit, which U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank heard on Friday.
Kaardal stressed that his clients don’t wish to end the popular Election Day registration process, used by about 500,000 Minnesotans in a presidential election. But he did criticize the current system because it doesn’t require elections officials at the polling place to check certain state databases to ensure that ineligible voters’ ballots aren’t counted. As it stands now, a felon could cast a ballot and later be prosecuted for illegally voting once regular Election Day registration verification processes have run their course. But since a ballot becomes secret once it’s cast, the vote can’t be “clawed back” and still weighs into determining the result.