The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that as early voting increases in Minnesota since the state relaxed its requirement to vote absentee, opponents of same-day registration say election officials are missing a chance to protect the process against voter fraud.
Minnesota is one of the 13 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that allows same-day voter registration.
The same-day registration policy that has helped propel Minnesota’s to lead the nation in voter turnout also applies to early voting. Voting began nearly a month ago at early voting centers and by mail. The Pioneer Press said that more than 5,500 ballots submitted as of October 19th were from newly registered voters, a figure obtained from data from the Secretary of State’s office.
The registrations are treated as if the new voter had walked into a polling place on election day, no matter how early the ballots are submitted. The ballots will not be verified or entered into the statewide database until after Election day. Opponents of same-day registration feel it opens the process to fraud.
Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R-SD30), and a former Minnesota secretary of state, told the Pioneer Press, “The voter registration application should be processed and should be verified prior to that ballot being opened. They sit there and they don’t do anything with them.”
Minnesota has a larger pool of ballots this year because the state discontinued a requirement that absentee voters give a valid reason why they could not vote in person on Election Day. In the past, absentee ballots from previously unregistered voters had always gone unchecked until after Election Day.
So far, the state has already collected nearly 150,000 absentee ballots. Secretary of State Steve Simon, who took office in 2015, told the Pioneer Press that most of the early ballots come from voters who are already registered. Simon claims that less than 4% of the collected ballots so-far are from same-day registrants.
Simon is a former democrat lawmaker who was instrumental in helping pass the 2013 law. He said it makes sense to handle the deluge of new early voters the same way the state has always done.
“We’ve just expanded the scope of who can use early voting,” Simon said. “This is the way that best suits, all things considered, the stresses on elections administrators.” Simon said that laws that encourage same-day registration and early voting outweigh the delays in processing the applications.
Election judges double-check registration forms at early voting centers to make sure that the ballots are correctly filled out, just like on Election Day. However, county election officials do not check registration forms against existing public records databases to eliminate any potential discrepancies that could determine if a voter is ineligible until well after the ballot is counted.
Sen. Kiffmeyer suggested a combination of using provisional ballots, which aren’t officially counted until a voter’s registration is verified, and implementing electronic registration at polling places to process registration immediately ahead of time or on Election Day. Kiffmeyer said, “It’s amazing that anyone thinks that could not be done.”
Ramsey County elections chief Joe Mansky said that processing applications after Election Day is “not a big deal” and that the larger pool of early voters has not changed that.