Andy Cilek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA), has provided some interesting findings in a recent report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA). Cilek spoke at our April 24 program to update us on MVA’s suit challenging a Minnesota law restricting the wearing of clothes containing political messages to polling places. MVA has also been in the courts to compel our MN Secretary of State to provide public information on Minnesota voters.
Independently, the Legislative Auditor has reviewed a subset of that data. The Auditor’s report confirmed that “ineligible persons are being allowed to vote” and that more than “26,000 persons who were marked ‘challenged,’ actually voted in the 2016 election.”
(The “challenge” designation indicates that the person failed one or more of the eligibility tests prior to election day. These individuals are given ballots if they simply ‘swear’ they are eligible.)
The Auditor then examined a small sub-set of those 26,000, namely, 612 who were challenged due to a felony conviction, concluding that he was only able to determine that 19 of those 612 were in fact actually eligible to vote.
The findings of the Legislative Auditor underline the importance of MVA’s legal challenge against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon to release “public voter data”.
A court hearing on that challenge, recently set for May 25, has been rescheduled for 1:30 p.m., Friday, June 22, 2018. The hearing will take place in Ramsey County District Court, Courtroom 1570, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102. The hearing will be open to the public.
MVA’s goal in this litigation is to get access to the data needed to understand:
• How more than 26,000 persons marked challenged on the polling rosters, were permitted to vote in 2016, according to the recent report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA). The OLA examined only a small sub-set of those 26,000, namely 612, and determined only 3% of them to be eligible.
• Why there were over 16,000 new registrants in 2016 who identified themselves using the last four digits of a Social Security Number but could not be found in the Social Security Administration database. You can look up the statistics yourself at their site CLICK HERE
• How more than 7,000 registrants in Ramsey County alone failed the “address check” following the 2016 election.
• And, how more than 2,800 individuals are recorded as having voted twice in the same election according to the limited data available from the Secretary’s office.
A Data Practices Act (DPA) request was submitted to Secretary of State Steve Simon on July 21, 2017, asking for “public” voter data on all voters. It was denied.
Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act statute, all government data are presumed to be “public” unless explicitly classified as non-public or confidential.
The DPA request simply asked for “public” voter data, (name, address, voter status, year of birth, and so forth), on all persons in the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) database, including those with an “ineligible” Voter Status. The request did not seek confidential information such as driver's license numbers or Social Security numbers or for whom people voted.
The only data that the Secretary of State currently releases as public data is routinely sold on CD-ROM for $46 to any Minnesota voter. But that disk contains information only on persons with a current “Active” Voter Status and does not contain that same individual information on persons marked "Inactive" or "Challenged.” Such designations are key indicators of a voter’s ineligibility and are critical to identifying how much ineligible voting is occurring.
In response, the MVA filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Steve Simon on August 10, 2017, in Ramsey County District Court, demanding that the requested data be released.
It is a gross assault on the principle of government transparency to claim, as the defendants do, that the Secretary must release voting history on voters with “active status on one day, but censor that same data the next day if the voters status is changed to “challenged" or "inactive" because they failed one or more of the state’s eligibility checks.
The Secretary of State has claimed unbridled “discretion” to be able to give out data to whomever he wants, whenever he wants, and reject any request without giving any reason at all.
MVA v Secretary of State Steve Simon is a landmark case involving the Secretary’s refusal to provide the public with full voting information on every voter (as the law requires), so the public can effectively evaluate the Secretary of State’s performance and determine the true amount of ineligible voting in Minnesota.