Forty-seven other states have what Minnesota does not: provisional ballots.
A provisional ballot in Minnesota could be given to a voter who has failed an eligibility check. It would differ from a regular ballot only in that it is placed inside a special envelope and held until the eligibility of the voter is verified, after which the ballot is counted, secretly, along with everyone else’s.
While 47 other states have already strengthened their election systems against the threat of ineligible voters, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon plays a dangerous game by standing in the way of implementing a provisional ballot system in Minnesota.
Mr. Simon’s longstanding opposition to provisional ballots is particularly egregious at this time when the Minnesota Legislature is debating how to allocate $6.6 million from the federal government for election security. A significant part of that money should be used to reduce the biggest threat to our elections: ineligible voting, the evidence for which is well quantified, comes from official sources, has been presented to Mr. Simon in court, and has never been contested by his office. Every illegal ballot nullifies the vote of an eligible person.
For example, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) has found that more than 26,000 individuals whose status was marked “challenged” voted in November 2016. Each of these voters had failed an eligibility check. Unbelievably, Mr. Simon has done nothing to look into even one of them.
Each election, thousands of individuals register to vote using the last four digits of a Social Security Number to identify themselves. The state sends their information to the Social Security Administration (SSA), in many cases after the person voted, and the SSA reports back if the person exists in its database. During 2018, there were more than 15,000 mismatches in which the person could not be found by the SSA.
Mr. Simon sloughed off legislative inquiries into whether those voters were ever investigated and what was found, giving no meaningful response to a written inquiry by Rep. Duane Quam, a member of the Minnesota state House of Representatives Government Operations Committee.
Instead of protecting the votes of citizens, Secretary Simon is demanding unfettered control over the entire amount of federal election-security money to spend as he wishes. His proposed 20-point plan is insufficient as a basis for appropriation. While many of the technical improvements are worthy, his “plan” contains no prioritization, no itemized costs, and no accounting of needed resources.
The secretary distracts attention from his obstruction by conducting a media campaign aimed at stopping the Russians, even though the Mueller Report describes not one case of a vote being changed anywhere in the country, let alone in Minnesota, by hacking. Indeed, the secretary has rejected $1.5 million offered to him for strengthening the technical infrastructure that everyone agrees should be upgraded.
The Legislature should not play Mr. Simon’s dangerous game that puts close elections in doubt, should guard against his partisan proposals that expand the risk of ineligible voting, and should take action to actually improve election security by installing a provisional ballot system, like 47 other states have done.
Andrew Cilek is executive director of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, an election integrity watchdog group.