The bill is ostensibly designed to provide better notification to convicted felons of the loss of their voting rights, and when those rights have been restored (upon successful completion of probation). Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t just accomplish felon notification. It will also reduce the penalties for people found to have intentionally violated Minnesota’s election laws and make investigation prosecution of voter fraud optional.
Minnesota Majority supports the basic concept of improving voting rights notifications to convicted felons. After the 2008 election, 1,099 felons were found to have voted while ineligible in that election. 200 of those were later convicted for “ineligible voter knowingly votes,” and/or intentionally registering to vote while ineligible. If it’s assumed that the rest weren’t convictable because the felons didn’t knowingly violate the law, then better notification could have potentially prevented 899 unlawful ballots from corrupting the election system.
Two sections of the bill are not at all needed for the bill to accomplish its ostensible purpose of improving felon notification and are seriously detrimental to the integrity of Minnesota’s election system.
Section 2 of the bill has the ostensible intent to reduce the offence of “accidentally” registering to vote while ineligible from a felony to a misdemeanor, if the person doesn’t subsequently vote.
Because of the way the section is written, the actual effect is much different than the stated intent.
What it actually does is reduce the offense of intentionally causing a person who is not eligible to become registered to vote. This doesn’t just apply to convicted felons. It also applies to non-citizens and mentally incapacitated people under guardianships. So, if a person deliberately registered a mentally incapacitated person who is not capable of voting, for fraudulent purposes, that offense (which is now rightfully a felony) would be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Section 2 is also completely unnecessary, even if it was written to do what the authors claim the intent is. There is no need to reduce the penalties for “mistakenly” registering to vote, because there is currently no penalty for mistakenly registering to vote. The law requires intent to convict.
The only actual effect of section 2 of this bill is to reduce the penalties for people who are intentionally doing something illegal to affect our election process.
Section 4 of the bill was apparently prompted by county attorneys who have been complaining about being required by law to investigate and prosecute voter fraud. They’d rather not deal with it. Several county attorneys have gone on record saying they’d rather not spend time prosecuting voter fraud crimes when they have to deal with other “more important crimes.”
This section would relive county attorneys of the absolute responsibility to follow up on voter fraud complaints and upon finding probable cause, to prosecute.
This will ultimately make investigating and prosecuting voter fraud optional, and with no one person responsible, there’s no one to be held to account. Right now it’s a crime for a county attorney not to take action on fraud, which is a part of law that Minnesota Majority has had to remind many county attorneys of in order to get them to take action on the fraud that was uncovered in the wake of the 2008 and 2010 elections.
This radical change could lead to politically-motivated selective prosecution of voter fraud. It will assuredly lead to lax and inconsistent enforcement and the public, or the individuals lodging voter fraud complaints will have no recourse.
Because failing to faithfully investigate and prosecute voter fraud has political ramifications that can affect election outcomes and shake voter confidence in the system, it should remain a crime
Similar provisions to weaken the integrity of these areas of Minnesota’s election law were also included in an omnibus elections bill that passed out of the Senate Elections Committee and was referred to the Finance Committee.
Take Action: Object to these attempts to further weaken the integrity of Minnesota’s elections. Contact your state representative now.