A public watchdog group is calling for federal authorities to investigate allegations of widespread voter fraud in Minnesota, charging that state election officials have been unable to establish the eligibility of over 30,000 persons whose ballots were included in the November election.
A lawsuit filed by the nonprofit group Minnesota Majority alleges that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and 25 county election officials failed to reconcile registrations -- matching votes cast with actual voter registrations of people who live at valid addresses -- thereby casting a shadow over the legitimacy of thousands of ballots cast on Nov. 4.
The lawsuit transcends the issues being debated in the ongoing Senate election contest between Democrat Al Franken and former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, which is now under review by the state's supreme court.
"When you're talking about a major U.S. Senate race that's being decided by 312 votes, whether you're for Coleman or Franken, it doesn't give me a great deal of confidence in the election," Minnesota Majority founder and CEO Jeff Davis tells Newsmax. "I would guess that both camps would be really interested in knowing what the heck is going on."
Davis is calling for a federal investigation into what he sees as systemic voter fraud in Minnesota elections. Minnesota law allows people to show up at the polls on Election Day, fill out a voter registration card based on a pledge that they are eligible, and cast a ballot.
Officials then have six weeks to verify that the voter lives at a valid address in the district, and to update the voter rolls accordingly. The votes questioned in the lawsuit have already been counted.
Several prominent Minnesota state GOP legislators are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, a former secretary of state and GOP state representative, told StarTribune.com there is "no excuse" for the apparent failure to reconcile all voter-registration discrepancies following one of the closest U.S. Senate races ever.
Davis says preliminary research indicates some addresses provided on Nov. 4 correspond with "city parks, business developments, freeways, and empty lots." He contends felons, non-citizens, and people who had already died all "participated" in the November elections.
Ritchie helped preside over the vote recount that saw Coleman slide from a 775-vote lead to the current 312-vote deficit by which he trails Democrat Al Franken. He said voter-registration lists are continually being updated to match the total certified by the state canvassing board.
"You'll never get a perfect correlation between the two," Ritchie told StarTribune.com "We were at 40,000 in April. We're at [a discrepancy of] about 30,000 now."
Davis's response: "You're still out of compliance with the law. And tell that to Norm Coleman, who's fighting over 312 votes."
Minnesota Majority's original pleading alleged that the State Canvassing Board's vote totals showed more than 400,000 votes unaccounted for on the state's voter registration roles. Questions soon arose about the accuracy of that total, however.
Following Ritchie's admission that there were 30,000 names unaccounted for, Minnesota Majority attorneys modified their petition to accept Ritchie's numbers.
“Because the plaintiffs will rely on statements of fact made by the Secretary of State, there should be no dispute about the facts. That both simplifies and strengthens the case, and will probably lower its cost,” said Erick Kaardal, legal counsel in the case.
Davis says the exact number of unverified ballots is less important than establishing that election officials are not in compliance with the law.
“We owe Secretary of State Ritchie thanks,” says Davis, president of Minnesota Majority and one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Secretary of State and county election officials. “Secretary Ritchie basically made our case for us.”
"This office does not comment about ongoing litigation," John Aiken, a spokesperson for the secretary of state's office, stated in an e-mail in response to a Newsmax request for comment. "However, I think it is important to clarify a couple of points.
"First, while frivolous lawsuits are filed all the time, the court will ultimately determine the fate of this lawsuit. Second, it isn't surprising that this group came up with such a large number when its analysis missed data from the entire Minnesota Eighth Congressional District. One might say that such flawed analysis does not inspire confidence in their organization. In addition, a review of 2004 data indicates that 50,000 voter histories were never recorded and there is no evidence we are aware of to show that the previous administration tried to resolve it.
"Finally, since the November 2008, election officials have been inundated with thousands of data practices requests related to the U.S. Senate recount and ongoing subsequent court contest. County election officials continue to perform their maintenance to the statewide voter registration database daily," Aiken stated in the e-mail.
Davis has enumerated several examples of what he considers flaws in Minnesota's election system, which occasionally has been touted as a model for other states: Davis says Minnesota voters do not need a photo ID or proof of voter registration to cast a ballot. State election law allows any voter to "vouch" for the residency of up to 15 other voters, provided the residency is later verified. Vouching for other voters requires filling out a form. In St. Cloud, he says, there were reports of a bus of young people arriving at polls, with one person claiming to vouch for the residency of the entire group of passengers. "We have stories of people standing there vouching for people and asking them, 'What's your name again?'" Davis says. "They don't even know these people." Information provided by same-day voters is checked by mailing a "verification postcard" to the address provided. "Their indication that they have a problem that has to be registered is the post card comes back," Davis says. "But that's after the fact. The vote is in, and it's counted. There's no way to extract that vote from the mix." At a bare minimum, Davis says, a would-be voter in Minnesota should be required to present a photo ID. He adds: "And then you have to be able to verify the other aspects of the law -- you can't be a felon, you have to be a citizen of the United States. Just because you have a drivers license doesn't mean you're a citizen."
The Minnesota Majority organization has scheduled a news conference on Wednesday to highlight votes that were apparently cast on behalf of individuals who died prior to Election Day.
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