Ritchie is sued over voter-registration records

  • Article by: PATRICIA LOPEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2009 - 9:17 PM

A group says that updates to Minnesota's registration system are lacking and that '08 vote totals exceed voters in the system by 406,000.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is being sued in the state Supreme Court by the group Minnesota Majority, several Republican legislators and others over alleged vote discrepancies in the 2008 election.

The suit, filed Thursday, says that the state's voter registration system has not been adequately updated and that vote totals from canvassing boards exceed the stated number of registered voters by 406,398. Ritchie disputed the claims.

"We don't want to take this step," said Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, referring to the lawsuit at a State Capitol news conference. "But it is the last step in a democracy."

The suit is based on research by Minnesota Majority, a "traditional values" advocacy group that compared the statewide registration system to the 2008 State Canvassing Board report.

By federal law, the voter registration system is supposed to be updated immediately after an election, and state law says updates should occur within six weeks. But, according to Minnesota Majority, 17 counties hadn't filed any reports to the registration system, and another eight, including Hennepin and Ramsey, reported more ballots than they had registered voters. Election officials in the counties are also targets of the suit.

Ritchie responds

Ritchie said Thursday that his office updated voter registration lists in April and continues to do so. "All lists are updated every day of the week," he said. "People die, people move. The counties continuously update the lists."

He said the goal was to match voter registration and the certified canvassing board totals within 1,000 names. "You'll never get a perfect correlation between the two," he said. "We were at 40,000 in April. We're at about 30,000 now."

Ritchie deflected more detailed questions to the counties themselves. "You'll have to ask the counties about their own numbers," he said.

Ritchie said he didn't know why some counties turned up with zero registered voters in Minnesota Majority's report. "Their number is so far different from the actual number in the database that it's not possible for me to speak to it," he said.

Aitkin County was listed in the report as having zero registered voters and 9,455 certified ballots. But Auditor Kirk Peysar said his county had reported its registered voters and that the number matched the ballots.

In St. Louis County, Elections Director Paul Tynjala said the county's results also were up to date. "I have no idea why they wouldn't show up," he said.

Minnesota Majority's research showed the county, a DFL stronghold, with 119,435 certified ballots and zero registered voters posted in the system.

"Something's wrong there, because all of our updates have been done since January," Tynjala said. "If they weren't, the secretary of state would have gotten ahold of us right away."

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, a former secretary of state, isn't part of the lawsuit but said she supports the action. She said there was "no excuse" for not updating the voter registration system and reconciling ballot discrepancies six months after one of the most drawn-out and heavily litigated U.S. Senate races in history.

Kiffmeyer said that the group wasn't accusing anyone of fraud, but that until the number of registered voters and number of ballots cast are reconciled, "we don't know what went on. The potential is there."

Jeff Davis, president of Minnesota Majority, said his group had tried to work with Ritchie's office since November to reconcile the numbers but had requests for information "ignored or dismissed."

The GOP legislators listed as plaintiffs in the suit are Buesgens and Reps. Tom Emmer and Matt Dean. Minnesota Majority said Sens. David Senjem and Warren Limmer also are plaintiffs.

A woman holding a "Revote Coleman '09" sign was at Thursday's news conference, but Davis said that she wasn't officially part of the group and that the lawsuit wasn't seeking specific action in Republican Norm Coleman's appeal of the U.S. Senate election trial. In that trial, a three-judge panel ruled that DFLer Al Franken finished 312 votes ahead of Coleman. The state Supreme Court will hear that case, with oral arguments Monday.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288

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