A group that has repeatedly challenged Minnesota’s elections process says several election judges — including three it is joining in a new lawsuit — are refusing to follow their duties at polling places because they disagree with how the state checks voters’ eligibility. The Minnesota Voters Alliance filed lawsuits last week in Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties with election officials from each area, contending that the secretary of state’s office is not doing enough to block ineligible voters, including felons, noncitizens and people considered wards of the state because of their developmental disabilities or other issues. The cases, which have been combined and will be heard by a Ramsey County judge on Friday, largely mirror a lawsuit the group filed earlier this year with the Minnesota Supreme Court. In that matter, the state’s highest court determined that it was not the proper jurisdiction to hear the case and sent it back to district court, where it has not yet been settled. In the meantime, with Election Day approaching, leaders of the Minnesota Voters Alliance decided to move forward with another lawsuit. Erick Kaardal, the attorney representing the group, said he received calls from election judges concerned about the potential for allowing felons to vote.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
Minnesota: Secretary of State wants Minnsota to reclaim top spot in voter turnout | Minneapolis Star Tribune
Secretary of State Steve Simon wants to make Minnesota No. 1 again — in voter turnout, that is. Simon, the state’s top elections official, has been barnstorming the state in recent months, promoting his voting effort so that Minnesota can reclaim its top spot nationally for civic engagement. For nearly 10 elections in a row, Minnesota had bragging rights, ranking first among all states for its voter turnout rate. That was until 2014. About half of eligible voters cast ballots that year, making Minnesota No. 6, falling behind states like Wisconsin, Maine and Oregon. In 2012 — during President Obama’s re-election — more than 75 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
Minnesota: State Supreme Court dismisses voting rights case from conservative group | Star Tribune.com
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a challenge from a conservative group seeking changes to how voter eligibility disputes over possible felony convictions are resolved during elections. In a 14-page ruling, justices said the lawsuit, filed by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, must first be heard in lower courts. “The broad-ranging challenges alleged here, which respondents dispute, should be addressed first in the district court, where any factual disputes can be fully litigated and resolved,” the court wrote in its opinion.
Donald Trump will be on Minnesota’s ballot this November, despite a DFL Party legal maneuver to try to keep him off. In a six-page decision issued Monday afternoon, the state Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed last week in which DFL leaders argued that the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, should not be listed on the ballot because Republicans had not properly selected alternate electors. The court said the DFL waited too long to lodge its objections to what it characterized as a technical error. The DFL had argued that Secretary of State Steve Simon should not have accepted the GOP’s “certificate of nomination” for Trump and Pence because Republicans had missed one required step at their party’s convention last spring — selecting 10 alternate electors for the presidential race. GOP leaders selected the electors in August, after discovering the problem, but state law requires that the selection be made at political parties’ conventions.
An extraordinary request to exclude Republican nominee Donald Trump from the Minnesota ballot sparked sharp words Friday and a swift timetable for the Minnesota Supreme Court to consider the Democratic petition. At least 1 million Minnesota ballots have already been printed, according to one legal filing. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin and his lawyers urged Trump’s removal from the ballot in a filing Thursday, arguing that state Republicans didn’t follow the law for submitting his candidate paperwork. Republican Party Chair Keith Downey shot back that the case was frivolous. “Donald Trump got on our ballot fair and square, and it is outrageous that the Democrat Party would actually try to rig the election this way,” Downey said in a written statement. “It sure smells bad when the Democrat Party petitions the Democrat Secretary of State to remove the Republican candidate from the presidential ballot.”
As more and more of our world goes digital, what important system relies on paper records any more? Democracy, for one. The heart of Minnesota’s plan to safeguard the 2016 election from hackers and fraudsters is a sheet of paper that people mark with a pen. No matter what happens to voting tabulators or election databases, officials can count those piles of paper ballots. “It’s ironic, isn’t it?” said Secretary of State Steve Simon, who will be on the hot seat if anything goes haywire on Nov. 8. After serving a decade as a legislator, the DFLer was elected to the Secretary of State’s office in 2014. Simon took over from fellow DFLer Mark Ritchie, who presided over two statewide election recounts that featured long and contentious sessions of shuffling and perusing thousands of paper ballots. “We really do have a culture here when it comes to election law of really relying on paper, and thank God for it,” Simon said last week. “We did not in Minnesota get distracted by the shiny object 15 or so years ago and go to touch-screen only with no receipt printouts or paper trail.”
Minnesota: After DNC hack, Minnesota braces for digital threat to election | Minneapolis Star Tribune
The list of precautions the state has taken to keep computer hackers from hijacking the November election stretches to two single-spaced pages: a cyber security team, a new outside election consultant and an encrypted internet transmission system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon and his staff say they feel confident that they have taken every reasonable step to prevent hackers from upending the election. Yet, memories of a hack in 2009 that shut down the Secretary of State’s business website never quite fade. And now a foreign-led hack of Democratic National Committee computers is reigniting previous concerns about the upcoming election. “If the [voting] system is connected to the internet or if the system is connected to a network that’s connected to the internet, there’s a cascading risk,” said Mike Johnson, who spent 15 years directing cyber security for Bremer Bank and now teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Technological Leadership Institute. Across the country, in the aftermath of the extraordinary attack on the DNC computers, cyber security experts are newly assessing the vulnerability of the nation’s voting system. Some say the technological weaknesses are significant enough to disrupt the presidential election.
A Crow Wing County resident Tuesday raised concerns about whether a barcode on his ballot could contain identifying information. Charlie Makidon of Gail Lake Township told the county board during open forum he believes the primary election ballot he received by mail is “marked” by a QR code printed at the bottom. “To 99 percent of the people, this is a marked ballot,” Makidon said. “What does the code say? Does it say, ‘Republican, throw it away?’ Does it say, ‘Democrat, count twice?'” Makidon said he called the county Monday for more information on the code, which is a type of machine-readable barcode that can store website URLs, phone numbers, email addresses and other alphanumeric data. The codes have proliferated in recent years, along with smartphone apps allowing users to acquire the information they contain. An employee in the administrative services office first directed Makidon to call the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, who then redirected Makidon back to Crow Wing County. Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson, whose office is in charge of elections in the county, called Makidon to discuss the matter. Erickson told Makidon the employee had erred in directing him to the secretary of state’s office.
Minnesota will move from a presidential caucus to a presidential primary for the 2020 election. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the switch into law on Sunday. Under the new system, voters would make their February partisan presidential picks in an election run by the state, rather than in caucuses run by parties. Whether individual voters picked a Republican ballot or a Democratic one would become public, under the new law. But voters would not be bound in any way to their partisan picks in future elections nor would they have to register with any party in advance of the presidential primary.
After two decades of complaints about the Minnesota presidential caucus system, the state is moving swiftly to adopt a presidential primary. The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a presidential primary measure, which would negate the need for a presidential caucus in 2020. The House is following in the same vein and may give the measure a final vote on Friday. After a crush of people crowded into thousands of caucus sites across Minnesota in February, Minnesota voters, party leaders and others decided it was time to switch to a primary. “Despite the valiant efforts from thousands of volunteers, we also experienced some chaos,” Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said of the 2016 caucus crush. Rest is the sponsor of the bill making the switch. Under the primary plan, parties would still have caucuses but the binding presidential preference vote would be held during a primary.