Guest Editorial: Eliminating Election Day voter registration not supported by facts
The commentary published by Rep. Steve Green (March 29, 2017) as a follow-up to his comments at the Park Rapids Area League of Women Voters Legislative Town Hall (February 22, 2017) adds further confusion rather than clarification.
Rep. Green attempts to defend his citation of 24,000 returned new voter registration cards by giving the reader two alternatives: The number was a) "not all from 2008" or b) "there is no reporting requirement from 2008." Rep. Green then concludes "the numbers indicate there is cause for concern."
His conclusion is unsupported by his own statements.
To provide Enterprise readers with verified, undisputed facts, the League of Women Voters Minnesota contacted the Minnesota Secretary of State's office and received copies of their May 2011 and November 2016 General Election reports as submitted to the Legislature. The facts tell a very different story than what Rep. Green provided.
For the period 1988 to 2010 — that's 24 primary and general elections — 22,898 Election Day voter registration verification cards were returned out of a grand total of 33,918,786 ballots cast over the time period. That is 0.0675 percent of all ballots cast over 22 years.
The Secretary of State's 2011 report to the Legislature noted several other facts which were not mentioned by Rep. Green. For the 2008 general election there were 3,262 Election Day voter records for which there is no obvious explanation of why they were returned. That represents 0.1117 percent of the 2,921,498 ballots cast. The Secretary of State's report notes that "some portion of those (3,262) returned were likely sent because of a changed polling place or for another reason many months after the election."
In 2010, county auditors statewide began reporting the number of unverified voter registrations turned over to county attorneys for further investigation. In its 2016 election report, Secretary of State Steve Simon reported the following to the Legislature:
• 2010: 2,123,369 total votes cast and 399 (.0188 percent) sent to county attorneys
• 2012: 2,950,780 total votes cast and 218 (.0074 percent) sent to county attorneys
• 2014: 1,992,566 total votes cast and 45 (.0023 percent) sent to county attorneys
• 2016: 2,968,281 total votes cast and 180 (.0061 percent) sent to county attorneys
On average, 0.0086 percent of ballots cast by those who register to vote on Election Day cannot be verified and were sent to the county attorney offices for further investigation.
How many were prosecuted and convicted?
WCCO TV reported on Oct. 16, 2016 that the Minnesota County Attorneys Association found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2008 Franken race; 26 voters were convicted of felony registration or voting illegally. That's 0.0089 percent of voters.
Contrary to Rep. Green's assertion of voter fraud, even the U.S. Supreme Court found no evidence of voter fraud in the 2008 recount.
Where the League of Women Voters Minnesota does agree with Rep. Green is that any fraudulent vote cast is one vote too many. His attempt to use cherry-picked and incomplete data to convince voters that Minnesota should eliminate Election Day voter registration by implementing a costly and unnecessary system of "provisional balloting" is not supported by the facts.
What impact does Election Day voter registration have on voter turnout?
It's one big reason why Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the nation. From 1988 to 2010, more than 4,301,000 people registered to vote on Election Day. They represent families who moved to a new home, students moving from the dorm to their first apartment, senior citizens now living in assisted living, new citizens, newly married couples whose name changed or individuals whose polling place was changed.
Should they be denied the right to vote or have their ballot set aside as provisional because of simple life changes — or even clerical errors made by well-intentioned state or county employees?
The League of Women Voters Minnesota, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages everyone to consider the legitimate numbers when considering whether our state should eliminate same-day voter registration and implement a complex, costly system of provisional balloting where a legitimate voter's ballot may not be counted.
Rep. Green mentions that it would be "a waste of time" to attempt to learn more about returned voter registration verification cards.
We hope Rep. Green agrees that investing $5 million dollars and discouraging millions of voters from voting is also wasteful given "there is absolutely no evidence that (voter impersonation fraud) has affected the outcome of any election in the United States, at least any recent election in the United States," according to elections expert David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business in St. Paul in 2016.
The League of Women Voters Minnesota believes that our elected representatives and senators should focus to make voting more accessible for all citizens.
On a final note, the League of Women Voters Legislative town hall format allows for attendees to ask legislators questions directly on subjects of concern to them. The League does not choose the questions, nor are any questions scheduled in advance.
Legislators are home the week of April 10 and we hope they will be out meeting with constituents. We encourage everyone to attend and ask questions.