State leaders from both parties called separate press conferences Tuesday morning, just 24 hours before Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president, to discuss the election that sent him to the Oval Office.
Biden’s inaugural speech Wednesday was a plea for unity, but unity won’t be possible “without accountability,” according to Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin.
“I think the Republican Party has a choice to make because there’s two sides. You’re either on the side of Nazis and white supremacists and far-right groups, or you’re on the side of Democracy and liberty and freedom and our Constitution,” Martin said, a claim that Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan described as divisive.
Martin demanded that “Republican leaders in Minnesota correct their false statements and state clearly, without hedging, that the 2020 elections were free and fair, and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States of America.”
“Let’s make no mistake about it, as I’ve said before, we cannot begin to heal as a country until there’s accountability,” he said, calling the Trump presidency a “long national nightmare.”
Republicans, however, said the country won’t be able to move forward if Democrats continue to ignore concerns about election integrity.
“I will say to Minnesota Democrats if they continue to not listen to probably half of the population in Minnesota that is concerned about this, if they continue to do that, it’s not going to help us move forward,” said state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.
He was joined by state Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, who said that “many of the election laws of Minnesota were not followed during the last election.”
“When you don’t follow election laws, you have an unlawful election. We also have on the books election laws that are in direct conflict with each other and we need to address that,” said Munson.
“This is the time that we should actually be having discussions about reworking our election laws and putting in place provisions that will ensure we have faith in our elections,” he added.
Munson and Drazkowski focused their arguments on what they said were unconstitutional changes to state election laws, not allegations of voter fraud.
“The Legislature writes the laws that direct the election,” said Drazkowski. “The U.S. Constitution actually says distinctly that state legislatures shall set the time, place, and manner by which elections for members of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Congress and the president are done.”
Instead, Secretary of State Steve Simon “changed election laws for 2020 via consent decree and legal settlements with activists affiliated with the Democratic National Party,” according to a report from the Minnesota Voters Alliance.
These “activists” included attorney Marc Elias from the law firm Perkins Coie, which filed lawsuits across the country in an effort to change state voting laws to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elias is perhaps best known as the attorney who was hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 to attempt to create a connection between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia, Alpha News reported.
Among other changes, Elias’ lawsuits resulted in a waiver of the witness requirement for absentee ballots, and a seven-day extension of the absentee ballot count, which was ultimately overturned by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Minnesota Voters Alliance also filed lawsuits against several cities and counties for failing to place election judges from both major political parties on absentee ballot boards.
Now, according to Drazkowski, the DFL is “basically saying, ‘Republicans, shut up.’” Drazkowski also referenced a letter from the League of Women Voters, which is supposed to be a nonpartisan group that helps educate and register voters.
The 13-page letter is addressed to Minnesota Senate and House leaders and “demands” that they “require legislators who have participated in the dangerous rhetoric that has contributed to domestic violent extremism to disavow those falsehoods or be sanctioned.”
During the press conference, Drazkowski called this “basically a ‘shut-up’ letter” to all Republican leaders and citizens in the state. He said Martin and the DFL are using the attack on the U.S. Capitol to “stoke their ‘shut-up’ message to me and other legislators who want to uphold the integrity of our constitution and do what we promised our citizens.”
Chairwoman Carnahan called on both Democrats and Republicans to come together and “ensure all voters have confidence in our system.”
“When we make helter-skelter changes to our election laws, people naturally have concerns, and we need to address those concerns,” she said. “With 20-30% of the population having concern about the election process, it’s our job as leaders to ensure that there is 100% transparency in Minnesota and across the country.”
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Anthony Gockowski contributed to this report.