Groups Challenge Election-Day Registration

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Two organizations sued Minnesota in Federal Court, claiming the state’s tolerance of election-day voter registration is unconstitutional.
     The Minnesota Voters Alliance and the Minnesota Freedom Council are the lead plaintiffs, along with five people.
     Both groups describe themselves as nonpartisan in their 28-page complaint.
     The Voters Alliance on its home web page denounces the League of Women Voters for conducting “public propaganda sessions,” and the Freedom Council on its website denounces the separation of church and state, and suggests that U.S. citizens be obligated to take an oath to defend the Constitution.
     The groups claim that election day voter registration undermines and dilutes the votes of people who registered before election day. They say this violates “constitutional protections of due process, equal protection, and association”.
     The complaint states: “In close elections, the mix of unconstitutional votes with constitutional votes undermines the integrity or validity of the election. The effect is not slight considering the number of close elections Minnesota has experienced. The present system does not ensure that the winner of the election contest is the choice of the majority or even a strong plurality of constitutional voters.”
     The Minnesota Voters Alliance is a partner in the “We Want Voter ID Coalition.” The Freedom Council also wants voters required to show photo ID.
     They claim that the state and counties fail to confirm the eligibility of voters who register on election day, waving the constitutional requirements for hundreds of thousands of voters.
     “The defendants, on the election days in November 2008 and 2010, waived the qualifications found under Article VII, section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution for election day registrants by not confirming that each person is entitled to vote,” the complaint states. “The state directs the counties to confirm the entitlement of each election day registrant after the election. In 2008 and 2010, thousands of persons were unconfirmed as entitled to vote but their votes were counted on those election days. Thus, persons entitled to vote had their ballots counted with persons not entitled to vote violating Minn. Const. art. VII, section 1 and the constitutional protections of due process, equal protection, and association (including all unenumerated rights). State laws are also implicated as constitutionally infirm. The defendants will waive the requirements of Article VII, section 1 again on election day in November 2012. The implications are profound.”
     Minnesota does not verify the eligibility of voters who register on election day until after their ballot has been accepted and counted.
     The complaint states: “Under the present system, with election day results counting non-entitled persons’ ballots with and mixed with entitled voters’ ballots, the state cannot ensure that the winner of each election is the choice of the majority or even a strong plurality of entitled voters.”
     Some of the individual plaintiffs, who ran for office in Minnesota and lost by narrow margins, claim the state undermined the elections by not confirming voter eligibility.
     “Minnesota has a history of close elections,” the complaint states. “In the 1916 election, the Minnesota popular vote in a presidential race had Charles Evans Hughes defeating Woodrow Wilson by 392 votes. In 1962, Karl F. Rovaag defeated Elmer L. Anderson for Governor of Minnesota by 91 votes.”
     Plaintiff Jodi Lyn Nelson, who ran for a school board seat and lost by 1 vote, claims the county failed to confirm several registered voters as eligible.
     Plaintiff Sondra Erickson says she lost a 2008 race for the State House by 89 votes, in an election with 4,044 unconfirmed election-day registrations.
     The plaintiffs claim that thousands of unconfirmed voters cast ballots in the 2008 and 2010 elections.
     “In the November 2008 election contest, a presidential election, there were a total of 2,921,498 votes counted statewide,” the complaint states. “In Minnesota, there were 542,257 election day registrants statewide who cast ballots and had their votes counted on that same election day.
     “The state or counties did not confirm on election day whether any of the 542,257 EDRs were entitled to vote as expressed under Minn. Const. art. VII, section 1.
     “Public records reveal that after the November 2008 election there were 48,545 EDRs found to be unconfirmable; nevertheless each had their vote counted for that election contest. Each EDR who was found to be unconfirmable as entitled to vote after the election, upon information and belief, was also not entitled to vote on the preceding election day for that November 2008 contest.
     “After the election day in November 2008, there were a potential total of 48,545 voters that the state or counties could not confirm were entitled to vote on that election day, but, nevertheless, were permitted to have their votes counted in that November 2008 election.”
     What’s more, the plaintiffs say, in the November 2010 election, Crow Wing County and Ramsey County allowed ineligible people, such as felons and the mentally incapacitated, to register and vote, and counted their ballots as valid.
     “The state of Minnesota and counties have an affirmative obligation under Article VII to protect the rights of people entitled or permitted to vote,” the complaint states. “The state and counties have an affirmative obligation to confirm a person’s entitlement to vote before permitting that person’s ballot to be counted.
     “A person who registers on the same day as the election is allowed to complete a ballot, and have his or her ballot counted without the state or county confirming the eligibility of the person necessary for him or her to be entitled to vote.
     “The state and counties have impermissibly permitted persons to vote on election day who are not entitled to vote and therefore should not be permitted to vote on election day, including felons who have not had their right to vote restored, persons under guardianship who have had their right to vote suspended, and other persons after the election identified as unconfirmed to an entitlement to vote under the Minn. Const. art. VII, section 1.
     “When a person is not entitled to vote and is nevertheless permitted to vote, the person adversely affects the right of association of the legitimately entitled voter who has exercised their right to vote on that election day. The non-entitled voter has illegally and illegitimately associated himself with a candidate.
     “When a person not entitled to vote is permitted to vote that person illegally interferes with the association rights of each candidate in the election who has an inherent interest in a fair election.
     “In close elections, the mix of unconstitutional votes with constitutional votes undermines the integrity or validity of the election. The effect is not slight considering the number of close elections Minnesota has experienced. The present system does not ensure that the winner of the election contest is the choice of the majority or even a strong plurality of constitutional voters.
     “Identifying the persons not constitutionally entitled to vote as ‘challenged’ voters (or identified by any other label) in future elections nullifies the legitimacy of the preceding election and is an affirmation by the state and the counties of the infirmity of the preceding election and candidates elected to office.” (Parentheses in complaint).
     The plaintiffs add: “When the government has the means and resources to prevent persons not entitled to vote, but instead permits them to register, complete ballots, and have their votes counted on election day without providing candidates and voters an election day process to challenge the illegal votes – the government has violated the due process clause of the United States and Minnesota Constitutions by permitting the violations of the constitutionally protected associational liberty interests of entitled voters who voted on election day without due process of law.
     “On election days in November 2008 and 2010, the state and counties allowed persons to register and to complete ballots, and then permitted their ballots to be counted without providing an election day process for these illegal votes to be challenged. Only after the election did the state and counties confirm that numerous individuals were not entitled to vote. Entitled voters on election day had no process on election day to challenge those non-entitled voters from having their votes counted. Entitled voters on election day did not have the means or the resources to challenge non-entitled voters. Only the state and counties knew or had the means to know to prevent non-entitled persons’ votes from counting.”
     The plaintiffs want the state and counties ordered to confirm election-day registrants’ eligibility before accepting their ballots.
     They are represented by Erick Kaardal with Mohrman & Kaardal.

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