Minnesota Statutes 204C.18 and 204C.22 contain protections against vote buying fraud that have been in place in some form through court rulings and statutes as long as Minnesota has had a secret or “Australian” ballot, which was adopted statewide in 1891 with strong bipartisan support.
Prior to the advent of the Australian ballot system, scholars and historians note that vote buying corruption was common practice, but voters would generally need to provide evidence that they have voted the “right” way to collect their bounty, typically ranging from $2 to $20 in those days.
The proof could often be a mark on a ballot that identified who had cast it, or the act of showing one’s completed ballot to the right person before depositing it in the ballot box. Making small tears in a ballot was also a common practice.
Prohibiting and invalidating ballots containing identifying marks has been a deterrent to vote buying fraud that’s helped protect the sanctity of the secret ballot for over 120 years. Now, HF1841 (Freiberg – D- 45B) and its companion bill in the senate (SF1663, Hoffman – D-36) would strip away that anti-fraud protection by making it legal for voters to make self-identifying marks on a ballot and requiring such marked ballots to be accepted and tabulated.
HF1841 was heard in the House Elections Committee on the first day of session and was passed to the full House on a party-line vote with all Democrats on the committee voting in favor and all Republicans voting no.