Leading up to the election, Minnesota has been a hotbed of anti-voter fraud activity, and voting rights advocates have warned that activist fraud-spotters could resort to legally dubious poll-watching tactics. Tea party activists and conservative groups have spearheaded a massive anti-fraud effort in the state called Election Integrity Watch, which has recruited 8,000 volunteers statewide. The latest reports from the ground seem to confirm fears that Election Day vigilance could turn into voter intimidation: Minnesota election officials and others are reporting that overzealous poll watchers and vote challengers are overstepping their bounds.
In Hennepin County, for instance, election officials say they’ve been dealing with “overly aggressive vote challengers,” the AP reports:
County Elections Manager Rachel Smith says precinct judges have had what she calls “very firm exchanges” with poll watchers who didn’t seem to understand their role…wandering into secure areas and challenging voters for the wrong reasons.
Smith says challengers may only sit behind the registration tables and may only challenge someone’s right to vote based on their personal knowledge, not the voter’s behavior.
An official from Minnesota Majority, one of the groups behind the conservative anti-fraud effort, said he hadn’t heard of such incidents and claimed his volunteers were trained correctly, the AP story adds. But complaints of overly aggressive Minnesota poll workers have also been reported to Election Protection, a voting rights advocacy group, which has a website for reporting election problems.
According to one complaint posted on the site by a volunteer, a poll worker in St. Paul told a Hispanic voter, “I think everyone should have to show their ID at the polls.” Minnesota does not require voters to show ID cards at the polls, but conservative activists have been lobbying to push such a law by raising fears that non-citizens would try to steal elections. The voter took the complaint to a Ramsey County election official, receiving “a email apology and an assurance that it shouldn’t have happened and election judges will be instructed to not ask for ID from voters who are already registered.”
The conservative Election Integrity Watch has spearheaded an effort to push poll workers to ID voters, even threatening to sue Minnesota state officials for banning buttons that say “Please ID me” at the polls. And they haven’t seemed to let up on their anti-fraud push on Election Day, according to another complaint about intimidation from Election Protection that was submitted to local election officials:
We received a report from Election Protection’s volunteer that a van with a large “eyeball” sign and the message “Minnesota Stop Voter Fraud” or similar statement on the sign was slowly circling the building in which the polling place is located. The van was not going with the flow of traffic and was clearly targeting the polling place; it circled the building at least twice while the volunteer was monitoring the polling place.