A group of Republican lawmakers and two interest groups who pushed for voter ID now are going to court to stop a state website that allows voters to register online. In a lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court on Monday, the group contends that DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie overstepped his authority when he launched the website in September. More than 2,000 Minnesotans have submitted voter registration applications since then. Dan McGrath, president of Minnesota Majority, said Monday that the lawsuit will not immediately affect anyone who used the system to register for Tuesday’s local elections. But, he said, it could be used to challenge the results of those elections, particularly in close races. The suit seeks action by mid-December. If a court found that Ritchie lacked the authority to start the website, the group could ask that votes cast by those who registered online be disqualified. More than 80 city and school board races are being held across the state on Tuesday, including mayoral contests in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
On first hearing, voter ID laws sound like an obvious and innocent idea. After all, don’t you need ID for everything else these days? So it’s not surprising that 80 percent of Minnesotans polled last year said they favored a proposed state ballot measure that would have required voters to present a government-issued photo ID before voting. But then progressive groups launched a massive education campaign, telling people what it would really mean. And despite starting 60 points behind in the polls, come Election Day they defeated the measure by a 54-to-46 margin.
A billboard along a busy interstate proclaimed the state “#1 in voter fraud.” A sitting governor fingered felons for tilting an election. A national pundit blamed fraudulent votes for the passage of national health-care reform. Could this be Minnesota we’re talking about? Once praised as the gold standard for ethics in government and election administration, Minnesota’s voting system is under fire from those who say the state’s election integrity is at stake.
Supporters of a proposed Minnesota voter ID amendment say it will protect the integrity of the state’s election system, while opponents point to several studies finding the kind of fraud the proposed requirement is designed to prevent is extremely rare. Weeks before voters get the chance to decide whether to approve an amendment to the state constitution to require a photo ID at the polls, deep divisions persist about whether it’s needed, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Dan McGrath, who runs the pro-amendment campaign Protect My Vote, said the group has found that Minnesota topped all states in the number of voter fraud convictions linked to a single election — nearly 200 convictions from 2008, when Democrat Al Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race by a razor-thin 312 vote margin after a recount and court challenges. McGrath said that means fraud “played a role” in the race.
Now that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that a proposed constitutional amendment calling for voters to present ID at the polls on the November ballot, groups for and against it are ramping up their campaigns to win voters. Supporters of the proposed requirement point to public opinion surveys that have consistently shown it has strong support. Opponents are trying to convince voters it could disenfranchise some Minnesotans and that there is scant evidence of voter fraud. One visible reminder of the amendment battle already underway is a simple billboard along Interstate 94 near Albertville, Minn., with a stunning proclamation: Minnesota is “number one” for voter fraud. But that message is simply not true, said Joe Mansky, elections director for Ramsey County.