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.
“Our purpose is to pierce the myth that there is no voter fraud in Minnesota,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority and the pro-photo-ID affiliate ProtectMyVote.com. “It’s simply not true. … We’ve been turning a blind eye to fraud in Minnesota for so long it astonishes me.” The solution, he said, is the constitutional amendment that would require voters to present government-issued photo identification before voting.
The state’s election officials defend Minnesota’s reputation for ethics and fairness, while acknowledging human error and what they contend are extremely rare instances of fraudulent voting. McGrath’s opponents accuse him of blowing up minor bureaucratic snafus into phony scandals, of conducting shoddy research that sends prosecutors on wild-goose chases and of undermining confidence in the system to pursue a partisan agenda. McGrath, critics say, is part of a national movement that they have dubbed the “fraudulent fraud squad.”
“Tell me there were 6,000 little green men that came down from the space ships and registered,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, a DFLer whose office prosecutes voting fraud and who is campaigning against photo ID. But McGrath’s dogged research, which finds its way into Republican talking points, has raised a provocative question: Whether a system with election-day registration, “vouching” for voters without proof of residence and no ID requirement for pre-registered voters is too “Minnesota nice” for its own good.