A Full-frontal Assault on Election Integrity, Fast-tracked to the Senate Floor
There was a full-frontal assault on election integrity taking place in the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday, but there was little resistance. It was a sneak attack. Don’t bother to look for it in the press. It wasn’t even covered by Senate media. The cameras in the room were all conspicuously pointed at the ceiling, even though a whopping 70-page election reform bill was being discussed (to put that in context, the 21st Century Voter ID bill of 2011, which was considered a comprehensive election reform omnibus bill was 60 pages and had hours of televised hearings before being passed along).
It took the Senate Elections Committee all of 30 minutes to present the whopping omnibus election “reform” bill and pass it out of committee.
Led by Senator Katie Sieben (D-54-Newport), the elections committee pulled a fast one. With a barely-announced agenda change, they suddenly pulled a bill from Wednesday’s committee meeting that would have imposed new donor and expenditure disclosure requirements on non-profit organizations (like Minnesota Majority) and replaced it with the huge omnibus election “reform” bill. We saw it coming, but almost no one else did. A number of both right and left-leaning organizations expressed concerns about the disclosure bill, which may have been a factor, but the result was no notice, no public input and no testimony on what is perhaps the most significant and damaging election bill ever to pass out of a senate committee in Minnesota. It’s going straight to the Senate Rules Committee and from there to the Senate floor for a vote.
SF 677 as introduced was a 2-page bill that aimed to curtail the activities of partisan poll challengers and put new regulatory hurdles for potential volunteer challengers in place. In its original form, it also gave the secretary of state authority to pick and choose who could be a poll challenger. Thankfully, at least that particularly egregious part was amended out in committee, but they also added about 68 pages, to incorporate every bad idea for Minnesota’s election system that’s yet been thought.
The final bill passed out of the Senate Elections Committee is a monstrous bill that pulls numerous protections against voter fraud out of the statutes and provides no reason to give voters more confidence in the fairness of our election system.
Some of the most egregious changes the bill seeks to enact are:
- Early voting (even though testimony and non-partisan research indicates it would run afoul of the Minnesota Constitution) – the bill would allow early voters to be “vouched” for, enabling a single fraudster to vote under multiple false identities for weeks on end.
- Early voters will be allowed to cast live, immediately accepted and tabulated ballots before their identity and eligibility is verified. Early voters can use vouching, so they can really amplify the notion of “vote early, vote often,” over and over again for weeks on end.
- “No-excuse” absentee voting (even though the bi-partisan Carter-Baker Commission report concluded that “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud”) – absentee voting is the primary source of organized, conspiracy-based voter fraud in every state that’s investigated it. Any expansion of absentee voting without a commensurate fraud mitigation plan will lead to more voter fraud in Minnesota.
- Reduction in the number of partisan “poll challengers,” the observers appointed by all major political parties to observe voting in polling places whose job is to challenge suspected ineligible voters – it also severely restricts the abilities and authority of poll challengers.
- Expands mail-balloting – Exclusively vote-by-mail precincts are limited to townships with voting populations under 400. This plan will potentially eliminate polling places, in-person election day voting, citizen election judges and partisan observers for hundreds of Minnesota communities by allowing townships of up to 1,000 voters to conduct elections exclusively by mail-in ballots.
- Reduces the penalties for fraudulently registering to vote
- Reduces the penalties for causing others to be intentionally registered to vote fraudulently (from a felony to a misdemeanor) – for example, a person who registers a mentally incapacitated person to vote, who is not eligible to vote would be guilty of a misdemeanor, instead of the felony charge under current law.
- Removes the absolute requirement for county attorneys to investigate and (upon finding probable cause) to prosecute voter fraud allegations – this makes voter fraud investigations and charges optional and will lead to lax enforcement, (perhaps politically motivated) selective prosecution, and no recourse will be available to citizens whose voter fraud complaints go un-investigated.
- A rare instance of integrity in the bill would have attempted to prevent an “early voter” from also casting an absentee ballot, but that section (Section 8 of SF 677) was ultimately deleted, so apparently, little to no safeguards will prevent double-voting under the same identity and no safeguards prevent multiple early votes under multiple false identities, via vouching.
- That’s not all. The bill is too large and damaging to reasonably encapsulate in one article. See for yourself, when the bill becomes public (we’ll post it, but you can review recent Minnesota Majority articles about prior stand-alone bills to get a taste of what’s in it).
The bill passed along party lines, with 5 Democrats voting for it, and 2 Republicans voting against. One Republican and one Democrat were absent for the vote.
The Senate Elections Committee passed the bill without public knowledge or testimony and referred it to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, where it’s expected to be rubber-stamped and passed on to the full Senate for a floor vote.
Contact your senator now and express your feelings about SF 677.
SF 677 has already been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on Monday. Please attend to show your opposition if at all able. Public testimony will likely not be accepted. Contact committee director Thomas Kukielka at (651) 296-9384 if you are interested in trying, however.
More actions to follow.