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County attorneys: Minnesota Majority reports on voter fraud "frivolous"
The Minnesota County Attorneys Association’s (MCAA) executive director John Kingrey says Minnesota Majority’s reports of massive voter fraud in the 2008 election were “widely overstated” and “frivolous,” adding that the conservative group’s demands of those investigating suspected voter fraud were draining county public safety resources.
MCAA was at a press conference last week where a report was released that showed voter fraud in Minnesota is extremely rare. The report’s authors, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota and the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA), said the report demonstrates that government-issued voter identification is unnecessary.
MCAA’s Kingrey said that Minnesota Majority sent county attorneys’ offices information last year alleging widespread fraud in the 2008 election. He said the “the drumbeat continued” when the Republican Party of Minnesota backed up Minnesota Majority’s claims and then counties were served with an order by KSTP-TV to retain absentee ballots from the 2008 election.
“County attorneys take voter fraud very seriously; there is no discretion for county attorneys in this manner,” Kingrey said. Minnesota Majority produced a list of more than 1,000 names of Minnesotans that they suspected of illegal voting.
“The list generated wildly overstated the number of felons that voted,” said Kingrey. “Many actually were legal voters; they were allowed to vote under Minnesota statute.”
He continued, “This matter has taken up considerable prosecutor and law enforcement involvement and resources at a time of dwindling budgets. It also impacts the strapped budgets of our public defenders and the courts as well.”
He added, “Our priority must remain public safety. The diversion of resources to investigate frivolous reports of voter fraud causes nothing to protect public safety.”
He said that several counties in the Twin Cities area had to hire new staff to deal with Minnesota Majority’s lists.
“It just was a lot of work given to a very poor list,” he said. “Very, very few have been prosecuted.”
Kingrey referred to a report released last week that surveyed Minnesota’s 97 county attorneys about voter fraud.
Jennifer Jewell Thomas of report co-author MUUSJA, said, “Voter fraud is not a problem in Minnesota and a photo identification requirement for voters is completely unnecessary.”
She added, “We see frequent allegations of voter fraud in the press,” and those allegations have led to a push for voter ID, she said. “Like all Minnesotans, we take allegations of voter fraud seriously, so we set out to learn the facts to inform this debate.”
The report found that only 26 people had been convicted of voter fraud in the 2008 election (because the statute of limitations on voter fraud is two years, that number is not likely to change). That comes to 0.00089 percent of votes cast in 2008. And only two county attorneys, those in Polk and Mille Lacs expressed any concern about voter fraud.
Kathy Bonnifield of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota said that people were investigated even though they followed the law, especially those who were convicted of a gross misdemeanor or had completed the sentence of a felony conviction. “There are people being investigated as possible felons voting, when in fact they had every right to vote.”
The report reached several conclusions and provided lawmakers with some recommendations based on the data gathered on voter fraud.
“Not one single government-issued identification confirms all the requirements to vote,” the report’s authors wrote. “In fact, in reviewing all types of government-issued identification (i.e. passports, military IDs, driver’s licenses, state-issued IDs), the only type of election fraud a photo identification requirement would prevent is voter impersonation.”
That type of fraud did not happen in Minnesota in 2008. The report found that county attorneys investigated seven cases of potential voter impersonation, and no one was convicted of the crime.
The bulk of the report focuses on felons voting, an area that was also the thrust of the complaints by Minnesota Majority. From 2008, 26 people were convicted of voting before their civil rights had been restored. They were in the following counties: Ramsey (12 cases); Hennepin (3 cases); Beltrami (2); Blue Earth (2); Todd (1); Lake (1); Morrison (1); Martin (1); Mille Lacs (1); Red Lake (1): Polk (1).
One type of fraud that Minnesota Majority insisted was occurring in Minnesota was double voting. Last year, the group said, “We found evidence of nearly 100 cases in which voter registration and voter history records strongly indicate that a single voter may have voted more than once in a single election. We’ve identified thousands of additional voter records that merit additional investigation.”
But according to Minnesota’s county attorneys, there were 165 investigations of double voting in 2008 and no convictions. In Anoka County, for instance, the names investigated were actually voters who had the same name and birth date.
“They were different people,” said Bonnifield. “Double voting never occurred.”
Only nine voters were investigated for voting as a non-citizen; no one was convicted. Only one voter was investigated for voting as an under-age voter; that person was not convicted. Fifty-six voters were investigated for voting outside their jurisdiction; no one was convicted.
Felon voters were the entirety of those convicted of voter fraud, and a number of felons who did vote were not convicted because they were not notified that they had their civil rights revoked. That happens when a felon is released from incarceration but is still on probation and votes.
The report’s authors said that county attorneys identified that as a problem and a bill to provide more education to felons so that they don’t inadvertently break the law passed the Minnesota Legislature last year.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed that bill saying that Minnesota already has enough mandates and “has a process in place that informs offenders about their voting.”
The report’s authors chastised Pawlenty for vetoing the bill:
We respectfully disagree with the Governor’s reasons for vetoing the bill. The responses to our survey indicate the current process the Department of Corrections has of informing felons does not work. The most common suggestion from County Attorneys was to better educate felons. Furthermore, many investigations of ineligible voting by felons did not result in a conviction of voter fraud. As noted earlier, in order to commit fraud, a person must intentionally break the law. As such, if felons are not aware that they cannot vote, they cannot be convicted of fraud.
While the report said that voter fraud is rare, and county attorneys say that the group’s data is flawed, Minnesota Majority defends its work. In a statement to TPM, the group defended its work:
As to “frivolous” allegations, we have conclusively demonstrated that hundreds of ineligible voters voted in 2008. Some of our data included incorrect identity matches or the suspected fraudulent voter was off probation in some cases, but the majority of the names we’ve provided county attorneys are accurately flagged as ineligible voters. The problem is that county attorneys aren’t charging the ineligible voters if they don’t feel they can prove the ineligible voter KNEW he or she was ineligible. Simply sticking to the story, “I didn’t know” is a defense against prosecution, because our election law defines the crime as “ineligible voter KNOWINGLY votes.” This results in what I term, “limbo votes” – illegal ballots that were counted, that shouldn’t have been but with no attendant crime having been committed, technically.
©2010 Minnesota Independent