Election Issues

The Case for Investigation and Reforms in Minnesota’s Elections

Minnesota Majority is calling for an investigation into evidence of irregularities within Minnesota’s voter rolls. We believe that poor data management practices together with lax and inconsistent verification procedures, has resulted in a voter file rife with errors, making the detection of inaccuracies and abuse very difficult. Despite hurdles that are the result of poor data management, Minnesota Majority has uncovered compelling evidence of suspected problems not being adequately addressed by election officials or law enforcement. Thousands of voter records showing errors, suspected fraudulent votes, inaccuracies, invalid addresses, duplicate entries and possible duplicate votes were forwarded to law enforcement officials in 30 counties for investigation between 2008 and 2009.

In addition to the investigation into past irregularities, Minnesota Majority has been calling for election law reforms that will protect the right of the people to participate in fair and transparent elections. Requiring photo ID and certain verifications prior to receiving a ballot will go a long way toward preventing the sort of errors and abuse that can cause citizens to lose faith in the democratic process and lead to disenfranchisement of those who are entitled to vote.


Prior to the 2008 general election, Minnesota Majority conducted a review of Minnesota’s voter records and discovered a number of apparent irregularities, including double voting, vacant and non-deliverable addresses used in voter registrations, deceased people remaining on voter registration lists, felons newly registered to vote, duplicate voter registration records, deficient voter registration records and other inconsistencies.

Minnesota Majority communicated a number of these concerns in a letter to letter to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie on October 16, 2008. On October 17, the Secretary of State responded by calling a press conference assuring Minnesotans that Minnesota had the best election system in the country. His subsequent formal response letter, received by our office on October 23, was largely dismissive of our discoveries. The Secretary of State failed to respond to our request for a plan on how his office would investigate these issues prior to the election. Minnesota Majority decided to begin its own investigation and recruited a volunteer who contacted approximately 25 voters in an effort to confirm their addresses. On October 29, the Secretary of State responded by calling a press conference in which he falsely accused Minnesota Majority of “voter intimidation.” Secretary Ritchie went on to allege that Minnesota Majority’s volunteer falsely represented herself as working for his office, an allegation contradicted by the sworn statements of both the volunteer, and the voter Ritchie alleged she intimidated.

On October 31st, 2008, Minnesota Majority forwarded such evidence as it has found to date to 30 county attorneys and 30 county auditors. We requested investigation of these irregularities. According to Minnesota law, a county attorney who is notified of such issues shall promptly investigate. Several failed to reply at all, and two outright refused to initiate investigations, even though they are required by law to do so. Failure to investigate allegations of election problems received as an affidavit is a misdemeanor offense and any county attorney found guilty must also forfeit their office under Minnesota statute.


Since we were not confident in the assurances from the secretary of state’s office, we examined the voter records following the 2008 general election. Although updates to the statewide voter registration system are required to be complete within 6 weeks following an election, the secretary of state’s office did not report compete updates until late April of 2009, at which point we obtained the latest voter history records, which were the basis for our post-election analysis. First and foremost, we discovered that the number of voters accounted for having cast a ballot in the secretary of state’s voter files did not match the number of ballots certified by the election canvassing board. There were approximately 40,000 more ballots counted than voter histories to account for them. In addition, we discovered:

  • DUPLICATE VOTER REGISTRATIONS: We discovered thousands of voter records that have an exact match on the criteria of first name, middle name, last name and birth year. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires duplicate registrations to be removed from SVRS.
  • DOUBLE VOTING: Using the SVRS list provided by the Minnesota Secretary of state, 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.
  • VACANT AND NON-DELIVERABLE ADDRESSES: The United States Postal Service (USPS) has flagged the addresses recorded for nearly 100,000 voters as being either “vacant” or “undeliverable”. We visited approximately two-dozen of these undeliverable addresses to verify the USPS results and discovered approximately 50% of the addresses in our sample to be correctly flagged, in that the addresses did not exist. We have taken photographs of empty lots and non-existent addresses where our investigation revealed invalid addresses.
  • RETURNED POSTAL VERIFICATION CARDS: In addition, the state’s primary registration verification tool is the Postal Verification Card (PVC). These post cards are mailed to newly registered voters. If the PVC is successfully delivered to the stated address, the voter is assumed to be legitimate. If the card is returned as undeliverable mail, the voter’s identity is in question and they are supposed to be challenged for proof of identity and residence at the polls in the next election. Over 46,000 of these postal verification cards have been returned to the county auditors as non-deliverable since 2004. About 38,000 of them were from 2008 and 23,000 stemmed from Election Day Registrations (EDRs). After accounting for legitimate reasons for undeliverable PVCs, over 6,000 unexplained, undeliverable PVCs resulting in challenged voter status remain outstanding from the 2008 election, and over 1,200 from 2010. See our full report on Unverifiable Voters in Minnesota’s Elections.
  • DECEASED VOTERS: Using a standard deceased matching service commonly utilized by mailing houses, we discovered thousands of individuals flagged as deceased who are still on the active voter rolls. Following the 2008 election, we were able to check the SVRS voter history against a list of dead voters and found thousands of potential matches. Further investigation into a small sampling turned up (high confidence match) death records for several voters indicating that they had died before voting in the 2008 election.
  • FELONS REGISTERING: Just prior to the 2008 election, an investigation by Fox 9 News discovered nearly 100 convicted felons who had newly registered to vote in 2008. Some were registered while in prison, suggesting someone else may have registered in their name. When these findings were brought to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, he said he wasn’t aware these felons had registered, but assured the reporter that felons would be checked for and appropriately challenged for the election. See the TV news report by KMSP Fox 9.
  • FELONS VOTING: Following the 2008 general election, we obtained a disk containing a list of all convicted felons “on book” in Minnesota from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Comparing that list to the Voter Histories in the Statewide Voter Registration System revealed 2,803 exact matches on name (first, middle and last) and year of birth. Checking court records against the BCA and SVRS data, we have so far been able to positively confirm approximately 50% of the felons identities and match them to SVRS voter histories indicating fraudulent votes. We followed up by checking polling place rosters for signatures of ineligible felon voters and made copies of some examples. We have forwarded the names of  suspected felon voters to the state’s 87 county attorneys for investigation. As of August, 2011, 113 ineligible voters have been convicted of the crime, “ineligible voter knowingly votes.” The number of convictions continues to rise as hundreds of additional suspected ineligible voters were charged and awaiting trial at that time. See our full Report on Fraudulent Votes Cast by Ineligible Felons in Minnesota’s 2008 General Election and our October 2011 Report on Felon Voter Fraud Convictions Stemming from Minnesota’s 2008 General Election. See TV news coverage by KSTP Channel 5 hereWhy can’t felons vote?
  • VOTING BY INELIGIBLE, MENTALLY INCAPACITATED WARDS: In October of 2010, a number of mentally disabled individuals were observed being led into the Crow Wing County Courthouse to vote early by in-person absentee ballot. What witnesses described seeing would seem to amount to voter fraud by exploiting mentally incapacitated vulnerable adults. Conclusive evidence has been obtained demonstrating that unlawful voting was indeed taking place in
    Crow Wing County. See our joint report on Ineligible Wards Voting in Crow Wing County. Also see news reporting on the story.
  • VOTE TOTAL MISMATCHES: Hundreds of precincts have reported different vote and registered voter totals in the SVRS system than were reported on election night 2008.
  •  SVRS / CANVASS MISMATCH: A comparison of the SVRS voter histories and the State Canvassing Board certified election results revealed a mismatch of 40,000 unaccounted for ballots in Late April, 2009. As of September 2009, the discrepancy still had not been reconciled.
  • CANVASS / VOTER SIGNATURES MISMATCH: Examining the original polling place precinct rosters in 5 Ramsey County precincts revealed that more ballots were tallied in the official election results than there were signatures of voters in those precincts. In 4 of the 5 precincts, the voting machines tabulated more ballots than there were signatures and AB (Absentee Ballot) stamps on the precinct voter roster pages. This could in part, explain unreconciled discrepancies in SVRS and it demonstrates a potential hole in the integrity of the system, making it possible for some voters to vote twice – once by absentee ballot and once in person with both votes being counted.
  • NON-CITIZEN VOTERS: Prior to the 2008 election, state Representative Laura Brod discovered that several non-citizens had become registered to vote. The non-citizens were identified by Department of Public Safety “Status Check” data. “Status Check” is an indicator in drivers license records attached to visitors in the United States on a visa. It is designed to alert law enforcement to check the individual’s visa expiration date. Only a non-citizen would have the “Status Check” indicator in their drivers license record. Rep. Brod brought a list of voters who had DPS records flagged “Status Check” to the secretary of state before the 2008 election. Secretary Ritchie indicated that he wasn’t aware that he could check for that, despite the fact that his office had been receiving weekly updates from DPS for nearly two years. Ritchie gave his assurances that the non-citizens would be cleaned from the voter rolls and checks would be made regularly going forward. A check of SVRS voter histories after the election showed that not only were some of the same non-citizens still registered, some had cast ballots.
  • POST-ELECTION REGISTRATIONS: The April 25th 2009 SVRS data provided by the Secretary of State’s Office indicates many voters were registered to vote the day after voting in the 2008 general election. We are attempting to ascertain the explanation for this discovery.
  • UNLAWFUL DESTRUCTION OF ELECTION-RELATED DOCUMENTS: Through correspondence with county auditors and county attorneys, we discovered that at least two counties have been destroying returned voter postal verification cards (PVCs) before the required 22 month retention period has expired.
  • NON-COMPLIANCE WITH HAVA AND STATE STATUTES REQUIRING TIMELY RECORD UPDATES: Several county election departments including Hennepin and Ramsey are consistently failing to update voter records within the state and federally defined deadlines. HAVA stipulates that the records must be immediately updated and state statute specifies 6 weeks from the election. Some counties are taking 6 months or longer to update these records.
  • DEFICIENT VOTER REGISTRATIONS: Minnesota Statute 201.071 requires voter registrations recorded after August 1, 1983 to include the voter’s name, address, date of birth and signature. We discovered thousands of voter registrations that would be considered “deficient” under Minnesota law due to missing or invalid information. Minnesota law requires these deficient registrations to be corrected before an individual is allowed to vote. Records show that many of these voters have voted in recent elections without updating or verifying this required information.
  • ALLEGED VOUCHING FRAUD UNDER INVESTIGATION IN MINNEAPOLIS: Eyewitnesses including an election judge at a Minneapolis polling place submitted sworn affidavits to the Hennepin County Attorney after observing alleged vouching fraud during the 2010 general election. Students with DNC-Funded Organizing for America were systematically vouching for Election Day registrants they did not personally know according to the complaints. See coverage of the incident from the Minnesota Daily (U of M paper) and Fox News. Also see eyewitness accounts of vouching fraud: Video 1; Video 2.
  •  OTHER INCONSISTENCIES: We have discovered several thousand voters registered after August 1, 1983 that had birth years suggesting these individuals are 108 years of age or older. We also found nearly 2,000 individuals who appear to have registered and voted before the age of 18.


The 2002 Federal Help America Vote Act prescribes certain voter registration record verifications that are to be performed by the Secretary of State on a regular basis. Based upon the apparent irregularities found on the voter registration file, statements from the Secretary of State’s office and reports from news agencies, we contend that the Secretary of State has failed to perform these required verifications.


We have called for a special independent investigation similar to that which was recently conducted in the state of Wisconsin. There, a joint task force comprised of the US Attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Milwaukee County Attorney and the Milwaukee Police Department revealed election system issues strikingly similar to issues we have discovered in Minnesota voter registration records. An 18-month investigation found widespread record keeping failures, suspected double voting, fraudulent voter registrations, felons voting or registering to vote, vote counts in excess of the number of registered voters and other problems. Minnesota and Wisconsin have very similar election laws.


Minnesota Majority is also calling for specific reforms in Minnesota’s election laws. Specifically, these reforms include:

  • Require voters to present a government-issued photographic identification in order to vote in an election;
  • Require the Secretary of State to employ specific data verification and validation techniques to ensure the accuracy and integrity of Minnesota’s voter rolls;
  • Require the Secretary of State to flag voter registration records that fail to meet a specific standard for accuracy and completeness so that these voters can be “challenged” and corrected by county election officials at the polls before allowing an improperly registered individual to vote;
  • Require a periodic independent audit of the voter registration system;
  • Require voters to register at least 30 days prior to an election so that all voters can be certified as being legally qualified to vote prior to casting a ballot on Election Day;
  • Eliminate manual recounts and limit recounts to machine-only resubmissions.


There are three common myths that arise in the debate of election integrity issues.

  • There is no evidence of voter fraud – This is simply not true. While it is exceedingly difficult to discover and prove who the perpetrators of fraud are, there is a mountain of evidence that indicates illegal voting is occurring. Prosecutions and convictions of voter fraud are rare because our system makes it nearly impossible to ascertain the identity of fraudulent voters. Minnesota Majority has compiled evidence including thousands of instances that indicate errors or abuse. This evidence has been provided to law enforcement officials for investigation.
  • Voter registration fraud isn’t voter fraud – It is if an improper voter registration is used to cast a ballot. Information in the publicly available voter registration rolls suggests that this has been occurring. Voter registration fraud can also be employed to generate thousands of bogus registrations that are used to obscure inconsistencies between vote totals and legitimate registered voters.
  • Requiring confirmation of a voter’s identity will disenfranchise voters – There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the opposite is true. Legitimate voters are being disenfranchised now by a failure to verify the integrity of the system. When improper ballots are commingled with legitimate ballots, there is no way to retract illegitimate ballots from the system. Defending a system that doesn’t take meaningful steps to prevent illegitimate ballots from being introduced into an election undermines the votes of legitimate voters. It has been estimated that there are only approximately 40,000 Minnesota citizens that currently don’t have a government-issued photo ID.  Voter ID bills introduced in the past have included funding to provide free state-issued identification cards to these individuals. These ID cards would actually benefit low-income people by helping them better integrate into society. It’s difficult to function in society, let alone get ahead without proper identification.  Indiana recently enacted a voter ID requirement and enjoyed record-breaking voter participation in the 2008 election.
Most Minnesotans have faith in their fellow citizens, but they also recognize the gaps in our current electoral process.  A statewide opinion poll conducted by Minnesota Law and Politics in 2001 found that 85% of Minnesotans favor requiring photo ID to vote. This is a simple, common-sense measure that would instill greater confidence in our elections. See more polling data.

Minnesota Majority believes that four key principles should be followed when it comes to our elections:

  • Everyone who is legally eligible to vote should do so – it’s a civic responsibility.
  • No one should be allowed to vote until his or her eligibility has been verified – the lack of a photo ID requirement makes verifying eligibility nearly impossible
  • All voters should have equal protection under the law – today’s law is socially unjust as it holds same-day registrants to a different verification standard than those who register in advance of an election.
  • Accurate record keeping and adequate controls are critical to ensuring the integrity of our election system – Minnesota citizens can’t have trust in our elections if there are widespread record keeping failures or inconsistently applied policies.

Minnesotans deserve to know their election system is of the highest level of integrity and will not be undermined by shortcomings in record keeping practices, lack of controls or inconsistently applied procedures, which create the possibility for errors and abuse.


Our calls for investigation and reform are not related to the Franken/Coleman recount. Our requests for an investigation began before the election. The US Senate recount simply underscores the importance of the reforms for which we are advocating. The security around the recount effort looked like Fort Knox. It begs the question why we fail to have a similar level of security around the front-end of our election process in voter registration. The lack of controls and verifications, especially in regards to same-day registrations, make the voter registration process ripe for error and abuse.

Counting and recounting ballots that may have been fraudulently cast is in no way informative about voter fraud.


Research suggests there are widespread problems in Minnesota’s voter registration system. We are requesting an investigation into these irregularities and the enactment of common sense election law reforms to ensure that our election system is secure, accurate and transparent. Minnesota voters deserve to know their election system is of the highest level of integrity and will not be undermined by shortcomings in record keeping practices, the lack of controls or inconsistently applied procedures.

An amendment to Minnesota’s Constitution has been proposed which will require all voters to present state-issued photo ID when voting, provide that ID a no cost to the voters and ensure that all voters are subject to the same eligibility verification before voting, whether they register in advance of an election, or on Election Day. Additional election integrity improvements like 21st Century Voter ID may be enacted after the constitutional amendment is ratified by the People.