The day before the election, I had an opportunity to purchase a used canoe. After completing the transaction, I loaded the 30-year-old boat atop my SUV and headed to City Hall. I had called the Department of Natural Resources earlier that day to find out what I needed to do once I'd made the purchase. I was told that since this was the first time the boat was to be registered in my name, I'd need to appear in person with the bill of sale at a Deputy Registrar's office.
When I arrived at City Hall, the registrar asked for my driver's license and the boat's hull identification number. This information was entered into a computer system that immediately verified its accuracy. The system indicated that the hull number was already registered under another person's name. But after some investigation, the registrar determined that the prior registration was no longer active. After giving the registrar a check for $24, I was provided with a watercraft registration card and a permit that I was required to affix to the hull of the canoe. The whole process took less than 10 minutes.
The next day, at the polls, I observed a long line of people waiting to complete same-day voter registrations. While some people were using driver's licenses to confirm their identity, one individual appeared to be using the "vouching" process. Vouching is provision in Minnesota law that allows a person to register on Election Day simply by having someone from the precinct confirm his or her identity. I watched as the individual filled out a paper registration card and was immediately provided with a ballot. There was no verification by election officials that the information on the registration card was, in fact, accurate.
I began to compare and contrast this with the process I had experienced the day before to register my canoe. I had been asked to produce my driver's license to confirm my identity. In same-day voter registrations, the applicant is not required to produce any form of photographic identification. The registrar had entered my information into a computer system that performed a real-time verification to confirm its accuracy. In same-day voter registrations, information is recorded on a paper card that is not entered into a computer system until several weeks after the election. Same-day voter registrations are supposedly "verified" using a 30-year-old process of mailing a postcard to the address listed on the registration card. If the postcard is returned as being undeliverable, the registration record is supposed to be flagged so that the voter can be challenged at the next election. If the registration is fraudulent, however, there is no way to undo the vote, since the fraudulent ballot was counted with all the valid ones on Election Day.
A review of Minnesota's voter-registration rolls prior to this year's election revealed more than 100,000 registrations with addresses that are considered to be either "vacant" or "undeliverable" by the United States Postal Service. The postcard verification process that was implemented before the availability of computer systems is obviously sorely lacking.
It is amazing how vulnerable Minnesota's election process is to voter fraud. Any person desiring to vote more than once in an election would simply need to find someone to vouch for his or her identity in a different precinct on Election Day. A person could also easily cast multiple ballots by posing as another registered voter. Since the secretary of state does not do a timely job of flagging the registrations of deceased people and of individuals who have moved, dishonest people could simply obtain a list of these voter-registration records and travel from precinct to precinct casting multiple ballots by representing themselves as these individuals.
All of this raises the simple question of why Minnesota puts more of a priority on securing the process for registering an old canoe than on securing its voter-registration process. The technology is readily available to perform real-time verification of voter registrations, but some politicians have resisted attempts to implement these controls, claiming that they would "intimidate" or "disenfranchise" some voters. This is nonsense. The only reason someone would favor a process with known deficiencies is that they know illegal voting is occurring and they want it to continue. Minnesota voters deserve a voter-registration process that is as least as secure as the process used to register a boat.
Jeff Davis is the president of Minnesota Majority.