Minnesota must check the eligibility of voters who register on Election Day before their ballots are counted or set up a process for others to do so, a voters’ rights group is arguing in federal court. Otherwise, “we’re going to lose the integrity of our elections,” said Erick Kaardal, attorney for the Minnesota Voters Alliance and other plaintiffs. But the state has no obligation to verify eligibility before counting votes, nor would doing so be practical, countered Assistant Attorney General Nathan Hartshorn, representing Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Attorney General Lori Swanson. The two sides argued for two hours Friday, June 22, before U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in St. Paul. Frank said he would rule within 60 days.
Kaardal said the state has data showing felons and others who are ineligible to vote. It uses that information to check people who register in advance, he said, but not those who register on Election Day. Even if a problem is found later, there’s no “clawback provision” to pull out and invalidate a ballot from an ineligible voter, Kaardal said. Allowing ineligible votes could affect the outcome in close races, he said. “These checks are not difficult,” Kaardal said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask the court.”
But Hartshorn said voters already must certify they’re eligible to vote, and Election Day registrants face more requirements in that regard than those who sign up in advance. He also said the databases and other verification tools available to the state can determine a person’s registration status, not their eligibility to vote.