In his June 18 legislative update, Rep. Steve Green makes several misrepresentations about the League of Women Voters (LWV) and our work to protect the voting rights of every citizen during the ongoing pandemic. The league appreciates this opportunity to present the facts on voting in 2020.
The League of Women Voters is a 100-year old nonpartisan, tax-exempt membership organization with more than 2,000 members across the state. The league does not endorse candidates or political parties. Our policy positions are based on researching issues, discussion and consensus among its members from all political parties. Rep. Green’s label is incorrect as he well knows since he’s participated in LWV forums in Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids and White Earth for years.
Rep. Green also misstates the intent and outcome of a lawsuit initiated by the league. The lawsuit addressed Minnesota's absentee ballot witness signature requirement that the witness be a registered Minnesota voter or a notary. Because of the COVID pandemic, many vulnerable voters are isolated and unable to secure a witness. The lawsuit aimed to have the witness restriction waived for 2020 in order to protect the health, safety and constitutional rights of voters. Two other nonpartisan organizations filed similar lawsuits. A state court judge ruled in favor of the agreement to waive the witness requirement in the August primary election. That lawsuit was brought by the Minnesota Alliance for Older Americans.
Why is absentee balloting critical in 2020? With 3,000 precincts in Minnesota, administering an election requires 30,000 election judges. Those judges are most often among those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Voting absentee, from the comfort and safety of home, reduces risk of exposure and lessens the strain on Election Day workers.
Rep. Green incorrectly attributes the question of counting ballots received up to two days after the August primary (if postmarked by Election Day) to the league’s lawsuit. In fact, it was the lawsuit brought by the Minnesota Alliance for Older Americans that was successful in state court. Given the delays in mail service we’ve all experienced, this is a common sense solution to ensure that all ballots cast by election day are counted.
Absentee voting has been a safe, secure part of the democratic process since the Civil War. Waiving a witness requirement for the elderly, vulnerable and those who are taking the recommended precautions against COVID-19 by voting from home does not cause "irreparable damage . . . to the foundation of our voting republic,” as Rep. Green claims. States, cities and even Becker County townships have all adopted vote-by-mail as the only method of voting in 2020.
Rep. Green is quoted in the June 20 Park Rapids Enterprise speaking to county commissioners: "Green said he’s seen 'the videos of busloads of people going from precinct to precinct. When votes are verified later, we’ve got into the tens of thousands that come back after elections that nobody lives where they were registered to vote.’"
An extensive Google search for these videos, along with verification by snopes.com, factcheck.org and politifacts.org — all nonpartisan websites — unequivocally found these claims to be false. We encourage Rep. Green to learn more about how Minnesota protects our elections from interference using multiple verifications processes and in close coordination with federal cyber experts. Green's voice as an elected official should be among those promoting free and fair elections where all eligible voters have a safe and secure way to vote.
The league’s mission is to expand voter access to the polls, something all citizens should support as an essential building block of our voting republic. Providing voters with accurate nonpartisan facts on how to vote safely from home should be the goal of all elected officials in 2020. To register to vote, update your name or mailing address, or request an absentee ballot, visit mnvotes.org.