“Voter fraud. It’s a felony.” So reads the “wanted” poster-style type on new fliers being distributed by Republican and tea party groups ahead of election day. What they don’t say is it’s also exceedingly rare. As Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison characterizes such efforts as “voter intimidation” – citing distribution of posters in traditionally DFL-leaning areas like college campuses and bus stops in lower-income neighborhoods – Hennepin County provides the Minnesota Independent with data that shows only .00006 percent of votes cast in 2008 were done so fraudulently.
Three conservative groups – Minnesota Majority, the North Star Tea Party Patriots, and the Minnesota Voters Alliance – have partnered to launch Election Integrity Watch (EIW), a project that advocates for voter identification laws and blames ACORN and DFLers for advancing voter fraud in Minnesota. The groups will be watching for voter fraud by sending teams of volunteers to the polls next Tuesday to shoot photos or videos of buses arriving at polling places, challenge voting and monitor assisted-living communities. EIW is offering a $500 reward to anyone who provides evidence that leads to a conviction for illegal voting.
They’re also behind the fliers and advertisements showing a handcuffed man that Rep. Ellison says is part of a voter-intimidation campaign.
“To scare people is wrong,” Ellison said at a press conference at Minneapolis City Hall Tuesday. “There’s not going to be anybody putting you in handcuffs.”
“This is not about voter fraud. It’s about voter intimidation,” he said. “Our proud history of civic participation is under threat from shadowy groups who are attempting to scare people away from the polls. In reality, Minnesota’s voter protection laws are strong, and our state has many organizations and tools to assure that people can exercise their right to vote – free of intimidation.”
Ellison then invited to the podium experts who spoke about voting in minority communities, voters who have had their civil rights restored and students who talked about voting on campus. Ellison is focusing on educating voters about their rights at the polls. TheUptake has video of the press conference:
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Illegal voting is rare in Minnesota, but EIW and tea party groups aren’t taking any chances. The conservative group Minnesota Majority launched a major initiative last year to get illegal voters prosecuted and targeted Minnesota’s two DFL strongholds – Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
Jeff Johnson, a Republican Hennepin County Commissioner, pressed county attorney Mike Freeman recently about the 899 names that Minnesota Majority submitted in 2009. That group’s allegation was that widespread voter fraud cost Republican Sen. Norm Coleman the election, a claim that was picked up by Fox News this summer.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman wrote back (PDF) saying that his office looked into Minnesota Majority’s accusations and found that illegal voting is rare.
“The rate of chargeable cases in Hennepin County of felons voting who have not had their rights restored in the 2008 election is .00006,” wrote Freeman. “Evidence of any other type of voter fraud was insufficient to bring any charges at all.”
His office charged 47 people with illegally voting in 2008. Seven of those came from election officials and 40 from Minnesota Majority’s data. Freeman wrote that the bulk information provided by Minnesota Majority was either insufficient or inaccurate.
In Ramsey County, 28 have been charged with illegal voting.
Despite the low number of charges, Rep. Michele Bachmann rallied the tea party effort on the Glenn Beck Show on Tuesday evening, claiming that a coordinated effort to get felons to vote helped Sen. Al Franken win the 2008 election.
“And remember we had the infamous felons for Franken program two years ago where we know that there were felons that went out and voted presumably for Al Franken,” she said. “We had more felons vote than the margin of vote victory for Al Franken. So there are over about 350 felons or 600, somewhere in that neighborhood, that were eligible to vote. We know that about 350 did vote. And Al Franken won by just barely over 300 votes.”
Freeman said his office’s investigation found no evidence of a coordinated effort to get felons to vote.
“There was no organized or coordinated effort to induce improper voting. There was no involvement of any campaign or any candidate. And there were no cases charged of non-citizens improperly voting.”