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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

If Its About Voting, Then It Must Be About Photo ID

Category: Voting
Posted: 07/10/14 12:38

by Dave Mindeman

The Kahn/Noor primary contest has been stirring up some debate about voting and photo ID. But as often happens with these things, the political rhetoric doesn't match the problem.

This all centers around a Post Office box service at 419 Cedar Ave S...which is used by a number of Somali's who move often or don't really have a permanent address.

But instead of some broad "conspiracy" to get more voting access, it boils down to this....

Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms said when someone changes his or her address through the postal service, an obscure state law requires the county auditor to update the person's address in the voter records.

This isn't something sinister. It is just a quirk in our voting regulations meant to offer convenience for the voter. Since your voting registration is supposed to be updated when you change addresses, this automatic notification is meant to save you the step of contacting someone about your voting address change. It also helps the state keep up to date information for registration.

In the Cedar Ave situation, this aroused suspicion because of how the Post Office box service is used. Again, nothing sinister or conspiratorial - just a matter of how things work in the Somali community.

This is getting straightened out with notifications and the address in question will require follow up when it appears. Done.

Except for one thing. The Republicans seem to think that this is another of their "myriad of reasons" for a Photo ID law. GOP candidate for Secretary of State Dan Severson had to sound the "alarm"....

"The Democrats are really giving this to us on a silver platter," Republican Dan Severson told a group of Republicans at the opening of a party campaign office in Eagan. Severson, who is making a second run for secretary of state, is a strong backer of requiring people to show a photo ID before they can vote. He says Kahn's complaint proves the photo ID requirement is needed.

And why would that be?....

"When she turns around and requires a photo ID to have people endorse her, you have to say, 'what's up, how come all of a sudden?' And then when the early voting starts and she's complaining that there are 130 people that are voting from one particular address and she doesn't think that's right, she's starting to sound like a Republican," Severson said.

It apparently seems obvious to Severson but in actuality none of this applies to his premise.

Photo ID would be of little benefit to this situation - in fact, it would confuse things all the more. Obviously, your driver's license would be the Photo ID in use, but for a person that changes addresses frequently, how would a driver's license be of any value? Yes, your picture would be on it but what are the odds that the address would be correct? The voter registration list would be much more up to date than the license because of the rule discussed above.

Severson doesn't offer any details or explanations - because, I would guess, he doesn't know. He does what every Republican does - if you talk about voting, the solution is always Photo ID.

Which for this particular Cedar Ave situation, it is not a solution at all.
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It's A Voter Fraud Conspiracy!

Category: Voting
Posted: 07/01/14 00:26

by Dave Mindeman

There is some media speculation about voter fraud in the primary race for Rep. Phyllis Kahn's seat in District 60B.

The focus centers on the address of 419 Cedar Ave S - an address used by a mail box service which allows Minnesota Somali citizens to receive important letters and parcels. It is not a new address....it is not a made up address. But it is used by a significant number of American-Somali citizens who move a lot or do not have a permanent address.

KSTP put together a report quoting an attorney with the Kahn campaign that insinuates a conspiracy of voter fraud.

Brian Rice, attorney for the Phyllis Kahn Volunteer Committee, claims there's voter fraud. "I think there is a coordinated effort to use this address to bring voters into the DFL primary election on August 12, that's what I think is going on," Rice said. "It's wrong, it violates Minnesota Law, it's a crime."

Of course, Brian Rice has a biased viewpoint on the matter....and his first inclination would be to move to an accusation of voter fraud - but that is a bit premature.

This has been and continues to be a very rough and at times, personal, primary battle. Mohamud Noor's campaign is working very hard to engage and register new Somali voters. His supporters are relentless and have the absentee ballot results to show it.

And it is hard to blame Rice for jumping to his conclusion. This Post Office Box makes an investigation necessary. But a "conspiracy" of voter fraud? I would be skeptical.

Eric Ferguson, blogging for MN Progressive Project and reprinted in City Pages, offered some very logical explanations for what's happening...

The first problem with the allegation is probably obvious to anyone who has ever rented a mailbox. People who move frequently, which describes many low income people, often rent mailboxes so they don't have to worry about their mail following them as they move. So having a rented mailbox isn't a sign of intending to commit the organized fraud....the owner told them (KSTP) they've been renting out mailboxes for 13 years: so did the 140 people registered to vote using that address just register, or were they using those mailboxes prior to the campaign? It would seem a simple matter for either Rice or KSTP to check this out, but they either didn't, or they're not sharing the result.

We are probably dealing with a lot of new voters here. They are excited to support a candidate that they see as someone who could really represent their interests. And because they are unfamiliar with how it all works, they could easily make a mistake.

The estimate is that 140 voters were using that address....and it could be that they always use that as their "home" address. Which points out more directly that this is NOT voter fraud - but probably a registration mistake.

For one thing, if 140 people used that address, it would be a pretty "dumb" conspiracy because that will raise all sorts of red flags. Especially if done absentee. None of these votes will be cast illegally because this will be checked out. Even if an investigation hadn't been called for, this was going to be fixed at the precinct level.

But leave it to the MN GOP to add their unbiased take on the matter....

"There is a side of me that is kind of chuckling," Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said Monday. Newman sponsored the failed constitutional amendment that would have required voters to present photo ID at the polls. "This particular story lends credence to what some of us have tried to accomplish."

Sen. Newman doesn't want to tell us that Minnesota law takes care of situations like this. This situation is just NOT voter fraud....although it seems to be fun for Sen. Newman to keep using the phrase as much as humanly possible.

And of course, Minnesota Majority's Dan McGrath needs to add his opinion...

Minnesota Majority's Dan McGrath said his conservative group has forwarded several cases of alleged fraud to law enforcement over the years. "I'm glad that, at least this instance, it has been caught," he said.

Law enforcement does investigate allegations. They only pursued the ones that had a reasonable measure of suspicion - which was few.

And let's be clear - "voter fraud" requires intent to commit. That kind of act seldom occurs. Most of these situation are mistakes - either by not understanding the rules or simply a mistake of omission, i.e. not registering at a new address.

The vast conspiracy of voter fraud is still a GOP figment of their imagination.
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Voter Restriction Advocate for MN GOP Attorney General

Category: Voting
Posted: 05/25/14 23:23

by Dave Mindeman

The MN GOP seems to have an Attorney General candidate emerging for the 2014 election.....

Senator Scott Newman

The timing is interesting - less than a week before the convention. Newman, as a Senator, will be able to keep his job - even if he loses, because his Senate seat is not up for election until 2016. So, it's not like he is taking a huge political risk.

But what is a bit disturbing is his record on Voting Rights. An Attorney General with his type of record on this particular issue is worth a note of caution.

1) Chief Author of Senate Voter ID Constitutional Amendment - After Gov. Dayton vetoed a partisan Voter ID bill, Newman's move to bring the issue to a Constitutional ballot made the issue even more partisan by bypassing the Governor altogether.

2) Filed Suit Against Online Voting Registration - Although the argument can be made that online registration should have moved through the legislature first, the concept was on friendly terms with the Democratic majorities (and in the end was successfully moved forward).....Newman's lawsuit was not content to wait for the legislature to act - he wanted to make an example of the SOS office in regards to the attempts by that office to make voting easier.

3) Blocked Notification of Felon Voting Rights - Newman was instrumental in stripping an amendment which would automatically provide voting rights information to felons. Newman argued that this would be "special" treatment for a class of voters - however, his Voter ID amendment was predicated on the idea of removing voter "fraud"- which in reality was mostly felons not understanding their voting rights and voting when they weren't allowed to. What does he want?

Sen. Scott Newman, as attorney general, may be another danger to voter rights in Minnesota - placing a clear adherent to voting restrictions into a place of legal authority.

At the moment, I doubt that there is much of a campaign structure in place to give Sen. Newman much of a presence in the AG campaign, but all it takes these days is one good money bag donor to give you instant credibility.

We'll see how it plays out next weekend.
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