State officials are making a concerted effort to revamp Minnesota’s defenses against cyber attacks—a preemptive initiative for the 2018 election season and beyond. Secretary of State Steve Simon made his annual 87-county tour of the state, stopping in Brainerd last week to tout new developments to the state’s cyber security systems. Under his guidance, the state has mobilized a cyber security team, hired consultants to analyze cyber security improvements and partnered with agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to address areas of weakness.Full Article: State pushes for tighter cyber security in wake of 2016 election | Brainerd Dispatch.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
Time to upgrade that aging election equipment: Counties including Becker, Otter Tail, Wadena and Hubbard are taking advantage of $7 million in state matching grant money. It provides up to a 50 percent match for mandatory equipment, such as optical scan precinct counters, optical scan central counters, or assistive voting devices, and up to a 75 percent match for electronic rosters. Becker County asked for, and was granted $71,000 for new equipment. That means the county will have to kick in another $71,000 towards the total purchase price. “We will be using it for voting equipment, we will not be purchasing (electronic) poll books at this time,” said Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Mary Hendrickson.Full Article: Party at the polls: Counties get money for new equipment | Detroit Lakes Online.
Minnesota will spend $7 million on new voting equipment in 2018, but the state’s elections chief says cities and counties need a lot more help. Secretary of State Steve Simon announced the $7 million in grant funding for new election equipment that was the result of bipartisan legislation approved in 2017. The grants cover half the cost of mandatory equipment, like ballot counters, and 75 percent of the cost of electronic voter rosters.Full Article: Minnesota secretary of state announces $7 million for new election equipment – Twin Cities.
Minnesota has a dress code for voting. The idea, the state says, is to create a safe space for democracy. To make sure voters are in a properly contemplative mood at their polling places on Election Day, the state bans T-shirts, hats and buttons that express even general political views, like support for gun rights or labor unions. The goal, state officials have said, is “an orderly and controlled environment without confusion, interference or distraction.” Critics say the law violates the principle at the core of the First Amendment: that the government may not censor speech about politics. They add that voters can be trusted to vote sensibly even after glancing at a political message. “A T-shirt will not destroy democracy,” a group challenging the law told the Supreme Court this month.Full Article: When a T-Shirt Gets You in Trouble at the Voting Booth - The New York Times.
On Monday, the Supreme Court accepted an appeal about the ability of a voter to wear clothing or campaign buttons at a polling place that endorses a political cause. The case of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky had been before the nine Justices in private conference on five occasions until it was granted a court date. The question under consideration is if a Minnesota law that “broadly bans all political apparel at the polling place, facially overbroad under the First Amendment.” The law, Minnesota Statute Section 211B.11, actually prevents voters from wearing political badges, political buttons, or other “political insignia” at polling places, because the messages communicated are “designed to influence and impact voting” or promote a “group with recognizable political views.” The controversy started when Andrew Cilek of Hennepin County was temporarily stopped from voting because he was wearing a t-shirt with a “Don’t Tread on Me” and a Tea Party slogan, and a button endorsing Voter ID policies from a group called Election Integrity Watch.Full Article: Supreme Court takes political clothing at polls case - National Constitution Center.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a conservative group’s free speech challenge to a Minnesota law prohibiting voters from wearing T-shirts or other apparel adorned with overtly political messages inside polling stations. A group called the Minnesota Voters Alliance is appealing a lower court’s decision to uphold the law, which forbids political badges, buttons or other insignia inside polling places during primary or general elections. State election officials have interpreted the law as also barring campaign literature and material from groups with political views such as the conservative Tea Party movement or the liberal MoveOn.org. Violators are asked to cover up or remove offending items, but officials are instructed not to bar anyone from voting.Full Article: Supreme Court to hear Minnesota voter apparel law challenge.
The city of Minneapolis rolled out new technology on Election Day, meant to make the process of voting easier and faster, but some voters encountered a few hiccups. For the first time, the city is using e-poll books which allow election judges to verify voters using iPads instead of bulky paper books. Several voters told WCCO-TV they tried to cast their ballots early Tuesday morning at the Walker Church polling location in Minneapolis, but the iPad used to check voters in was unable to connect to the internet. One voter claims he waited for 20 minutes and had to come back to vote.Full Article: Minneapolis Voters Encounter Problems With New E-Poll Books « WCCO | CBS Minnesota.
With the CIA and the FBI agreeing that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump, many Minnesotans are concerned about protecting the integrity of the state’s election system. They shouldn’t be too worried, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said Tuesday, Aug. 29, during a visit to Detroit Lakes. “My biggest surprise about this job is the time, effort and energy that I and the rest of the staff spend on cyber security issues,” said Simon, who was elected in 2014. He campaigned on running the office with a Joan Growe-style of excellence, and expected to deal with straightforward issues: expanding access to voting, removing barriers to voting, making business services as streamlined as possible.Full Article: Are our elections secure? Minnesota's in better shape than most states | WDAY.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon stopped in Hubbard County last week as he toured the state talking about the need to replace aging election equipment. Simon was seeking $28 million from the Legislature to help counties pay for the project. In May, a bill was signed into law that created a $7 million grant fund to help replace the aging equipment by 2020. The fund provides up to a 50 percent match between the state and counties for mandatory equipment and up to a 75 percent match for electronic poll books. Grant applications are expected to be made available in September, with an expected submission deadline in mid-December, according to Secretary of State’s office.Full Article: State to provide funds to counties for election equipment | Park Rapids Enterprise.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon says he’s not sure he’ll turn over the data requested by a White House panel for a study of voter fraud. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked all states this week to supply publicly-available voter roll information. The request includes voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth, recent voting history and details about military status and felony convictions. Simon, a Democrat, is hesitant.Full Article: Simon skeptical of White House request for voter data | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio News.
Minnesota: Secretary’s push to replace aging election equipment signed into law | Faribault Daily News
Secretary of State Steve Simon is praising a new law that will help replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment, calling it a “critical and necessary investment” to ensure voting equipment works properly and consistently in precincts all around the state. Replacing aging equipment has been a major priority of Secretary Simon’s since taking office and was signed into law May 30. The bill creates a $7 million grant fund to replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment by 2018. It provides up to a 50 percent match between the state and counties for mandatory equipment and up to a 75 percent match for electronic poll books.Full Article: Secretary’s push to replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment signed into law | Community | southernminn.com.
Last week Secretary of State Steve Simon undertook a tour of all 87 counties. He wanted to learn about the local government’s experiences during the 2016 election. His goal was to get the State to give some kind of grant or match to help with the cost of replacing aging voting machines. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which was a one time federal fund to help purchase equipment. Minnesota purchased most of its equipment between 2004-2007. According to the vendors, the machines are good for 10 years, and can be pushed to 15 years max. In 2017, the max is getting dangerously close. It costs roughly $10,000 per polling location to upgrade. Simon’s case for State funding is that upgrading the machines is a mandatory cost that can’t be deferred. The previous generation of machines was purchased with help from federal funding for all 50 states. 43 states are in need of upgrades.Full Article: Simon urges funding for voting equipment.
Republicans are moving to erase Minnesota’s public campaign subsidies, which could reshape the fundraising fight in next year’s gubernatorial election and unleash more money into statewide and local elections. Passed in 1974 as part of an anti-corruption wave triggered by President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Minnesota’s subsidy has become ingrained in state elections. With all 201 legislative seats up for grabs last year, nearly nine of every 10 candidates agreed to limit their total campaign spending. In return, they shared in $2.2 million in public funding. In 2014, when both Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson accepted subsidies, that public money accounted for more than 20 percent of the $4.5 million spent on the race.Full Article: Republicans aim to erase campaign spending laws - StarTribune.com.
Minnesota often leads the nation in voter turnout, but isn’t always on the cutting edge of voting technology. One company wants to change that by convincing lawmakers touch screen voting is the wave of the future. “The Express Vote (machine) is an assisted voting device that can also be used by other voters as well,” said Mike Hoversten of Election Systems and Software. He points out that one machine can be used by voters of all abilities. The Express Vote machine eventually produces a paper ballot, but it’s smaller than the size of the ballot required by state law that is commonly used now. A change in state law would be required for counties to consider using the machine. State Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, a former Minnesota Secretary of State, said such a change is unlikely, at least for now. “Because you have a uniform paper ballot and that is equal treatment of all voters, that’s really important,” Kiffmeyer told 5 Eyewitness News.Full Article: New Push to Change Voting Technology in Minnesota | KSTP.com.
Minnesota: Provisional balloting, a June primary and ‘I voted’ stickers: How legislators are looking to change Minnesota elections | MinnPost
In St. Paul, there are only a few areas where bipartisanship is not just a lofty goal, it’s a requirement. That includes any changes lawmakers want to make to the state’s election and voting systems. Gov. Mark Dayton, like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has said he’ll only sign election-related bills if the proposals have broad support from legislators in both parties — no matter who’s in power. It’s a tradition that some say has bolstered Minnesota’s strong election system, which has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation and few instances of fraud. The rule has also influenced the measures moving through the Legislature this year, with the Republicans who control both chambers ditching proposals that have been controversial in the past — like voter ID — and advancing a list of changes to the state’s election system that have broad support. Well, mostly. As Secretary of State Steve Simon says: “I would say there is work that has yet to be done to get the bipartisan support necessary for the governor’s signature.”Full Article: Provisional balloting, a June primary and 'I voted' stickers: How legislators are looking to change Minnesota elections | MinnPost.
Minnesota: Ranked-choice opponents push St. Paul to vote on voting, again | Minnesota Public Radio News
Though St. Paul residents approved ranked-choice voting in a 2009 referendum, it may be heading for a vote in St. Paul again. Opponents of ranked-choice voting, also called instant-runoff voting, say it has unnecessarily delayed results and hasn’t delivered on supporters’ promises. They’re going to make their case to put it back before voters as soon as November. “It promises a lot of things and it doesn’t deliver on any of them,” says Chuck Repke, a neighborhood activist, one-time city council staffer and political activist.Full Article: Ranked-choice opponents push St. Paul to vote on voting, again | Minnesota Public Radio News.
Minnesota’s local government officials say searching the eBay online auction site for voting machine parts is not the best way to keep the foundation of democracy running smoothly. The company that made much of Minnesota’s voting equipment, especially for disabled voters, has moved on to newer technologies and parts for machines used in most Minnesota polling places are hard to find. “The best answer to that is eBay,” Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson of Crow Wing County told a Minnesota House committee Wednesday, March 1, before the panel approved a bill providing counties $14 million next year.Full Article: Dated voting machines needing improvements | Republican Eagle.
Minnesota’s local government officials say searching the eBay online auction site for voting machine parts is not the best way to keep the foundation of democracy running smoothly. The company that made much of Minnesota’s voting equipment, especially for disabled voters, has moved on to newer technologies and parts for machines used in most Minnesota polling places are hard to find. “The best answer to that is eBay,” Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson, of Crow Wing County, told a Minnesota House committee Wednesday, before the panel approved a bill providing counties $14 million next year.Full Article: Officials say eBay not the answer for voting machines | News | southernminn.com.
A controversial proposal to use provisional ballots to stanch voter fraud is winding its way through the state Senate. The bill would introduce — for the first time in state history — provisional ballots to Minnesota elections. Provisional votes would be cast, then set aside until a challenged voter’s eligibility is reviewed by election authorities and either affirmed or denied. Officials would have seven days to make that decision. The provision was initially introduced as part of a stand-alone bill, Senate File 1225, authored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake. It has since been rolled into Kiffmeyer’s much larger election omnibus bill, Senate File 514. Yet it consistently takes center stage in committee deliberations.Full Article: Senators debate provisional ballots – Minnesota Lawyer.
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a Minnesota law banning political apparel at polling places does not infringe on First Amendment rights and includes shirts and buttons distributed by Minnesota Tea Party groups that read “Please ID Me.” The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the groups Minnesota Majority, Minnesota Northstar Tea Party Patriots and Election Integrity watch failed to prove that the state statute was selectively applied or limited voters’ right to free speech. The shirts were meant to support laws that require state-issued photo ID at polling places aimed at cracking down on voter fraud. There is currently no such law in Minnesota.Full Article: Court Rules Against ‘Please ID Me’ Buttons At Polling Places « WCCO | CBS Minnesota.