Parties plan heavier poll monitoring
By Gregg Aamot
ST. PAUL -- The state's two main political parties plan to send hundreds of monitors to polling places across the state Tuesday, motivated by the heated presidential race and the prospect of thousands of new voters.
The secretary of state's office said this week that 2.98 million Minnesotans are registered to vote -- 4.4 percent more than the 2000 election. And many others who are voting for the first time, including immigrants and students, will register on Election Day.
Both Republicans and Democrats said they will have more monitors at the polls than in years past. One monitor per party is allowed inside the polling sites, though the parties will have other volunteers, including lawyers, stationed outside.
Minnesota could also build on its 2000 voter turnout of 69.4 percent -- the highest in the nation.
Democrats said their monitors want to make sure everyone eligible to vote gets that chance. Republicans said they want the same thing -- along with assurances that people intent on casting a fraudulent vote remain on the sidelines.
"The disappointing thing is that the Republicans are trying to make a brouhaha out of this -- that somehow there will be problems," said Mike Erlandson, chairman of the state DFL Party. "We have always been a party to get people to vote, not get them to stay home."
Eric Bearse, who is organizing poll watchers for the state Republican Party, said the chance for fraud is greater with so many new voters heading to the polls.
"We are concerned about outside groups abusing Minnesota's inclusive elections laws," he said. Bearse said some "shadow groups" that support progressive causes have been suspected of voter fraud in other states.
Bearse wouldn't say whether GOP monitors were prepared to challenge the eligibility of some voters, a move elections officials said has been extremely rare in past Minnesota elections.
"Our efforts are geared toward fair elections so that no voter is disenfranchised -- either by being denied the right to vote or by having their vote canceled by an illegal one," he said.
Monitors are more likely in the state's larger counties.
A monitor challenge must be presented in writing to an election judge, who will determine whether to question a voter. And the objections must be specific and clearly written, such as a concern that the voter is too young.