A small conservative activist group that has been investigating voting irregularities in Minnesota for years claimed a $1,000 bounty offered by the ACLU for finding a case of fraud that a photo ID requirement would have prevented.
Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority, produced court records from an Anoka County case involving voting in the 2008 election. The records concern an Andover woman who was charged with three felonies. According to the records, prosecutors alleged she voted in person in her own name, and by absentee ballot in the name of her daughter, who was away at college.The daughter also voted near her college in the same election.
The woman, Barbara Nyhammer of Andover, told the judge in her case that she filled out her daughter's absentee ballot -- with her daughter's line-by-line instructions -- because she believed her daughter was not going to be able to vote in person. The judge told her it was a mistake in communication, not an attempt to intentionally vote twice. He issued a stay of adjudication, basically resolving the charges with one year of probation and $200 in costs.
McGrath and his organization are supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment requiring all voters to show a photo ID."If you look for voter fraud in Minnesota, you'll find it," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
The ACLU of Minnesota, which opposes Photo ID, last month offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who could show a voter impersonation conviction -- the type of vote fraud that would have been prevented by a photo ID.
Chuck Samuelson, executive director of ACLU-Minnesota, said Tuesday he would examine the court documents and would pay Minnesota Majority if the case meets the ACLU's requirements. He said that will be announced April 5.
Samuelson said the fact that prosecutors found this case indicates that the system is working.
The Anoka County Attorney's office said Nyhammer, 52, of Andover, is believed to have cast her own ballot in Precinct 6 in Andover on Nov. 4, 2008. Prior to that, she voted by absentee ballot in her daughter's name. That ballot was dated Oct. 26, 2008.The daughter voted legally on Nov. 4 in Precinct 13 in Mankato,where she was attending college.
Prosecutors at first contacted the daughter, believing she voted in two places, and she said she had never voted by absentee ballot. Her mother admitted "that she completed the absentee ballot for her daughter and voted absentee on her daughter's behalf," the criminal complaint stated. "The defendant stated that she did not think her daughter would be voting in Mankato."
According to the County Attorney's office, Nyhammer was charged with three felonies -- voting more than once in the same election, casting a false absentee ballot certificate, and making a false statement in an absentee ballot application.
Nyhammer released a copy of her statement to the judge, in which she explained that she believed she was legally filling out her daughter's ballot -- not attempting to vote twice -- and that Nyhammer thought her daughter would not be voting in Mankato. The judge agreed, according to the court transcript.
"This is a situation that would have been stopped by the voter ID amendment,'' said McGrath of Minnesota Majority. Such a proposal "would have required a positive identification from the voter before the ballot would be accepted," he added. With the daughter away at school, McGrath said, "the mother couldn't have provided proof of identity to cast that ballot."
Samuelson of the ACLU said this was an "absentee ballot issue," and the "sticky wicket" of the photo ID requirement is that details such as how absentee voters would be treated will be left up to the 2013 Legislature. For example, if absentee voters are not required to provide a photo ID in Minnesota, it is questionable whether this fraud would have been stopped.