Ramsey County Obligated to Release Election Documents
For several years, Minnesota Majority has inspected public election records to detect and prove instances of voter fraud. That research has led to the most convictions for voter fraud of any state since 1936. Access for inspection of the original election documents had been grudgingly allowed by the keepers of the records until now.
Following the 2012 election, Minnesota Majority submitted what’s become a routine Data Practices Act request for access to certain election documents in the possession of Ramsey County, but the group was astonished to receive a denial from the Ramsey County attorney’s office. In lieu of requested documents, Ramsey County offered an (edited) electronic voter mailing list called the “public information list,” which they wrongly maintain is the only election data available to the public.
Minnesota Majority immediately requested an advisory opinion from the state Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD), an agency charged with providing guidance on the Data Practices Act. IPAD promptly responded, noting that the commissioner just issued an advisory opinion on the same issue in September 2012, when St. Louis County denied a local newspaper inspection access to election documents.
The conclusion: The county did not respond appropriately by denying the request.
The opinion stated that “the plain language of section 201.091, subdivision 4, makes clear that other voter information, in addition to the elements identified on the public information list, may be accessible by the public.”
IPAD’s response to Minnesota Majority further noted that “individuals may rely upon a written opinion of the Commissioner even if the opinion was issued to another party,” meaning it applies to Minnesota Majority’s dispute with Ramsey County Elections.
Under the provisions of the Minnesota Data Practices Act, a court must give deference to the opinions issued by IPAD. The Act also provides for criminal penalties, suspension without pay and termination of public employees who willfully violate the Act.
Unfortunately, the situation isn’t isolated to Ramsey County. Minnesota Majority is now receiving word from other counties that Data Practices Act requests for election documents are being denied. Ramsey County has set a terrible and dangerous precedent for transparency that absolutely must not be allowed to stand in a republic of, by and for the People.
With IPAD opinion in hand, Minnesota Majority is now preparing a lawsuit to gain access to the documents which are by law, public.