Minn. groups plans polling place surveillanceby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A coalition of conservative groups says it's enlisting volunteers to become "voter surveillance teams" at polling places on Election Day, to watch for possible cases of voter fraud. The groups, led by one called Minnesota Majority, say they want to reduce illegal attempts at voting.
But others say the effort appears to have less to do with election fraud and more to do with suppressing voter turnout.
The conservative group, Minnesota Majority, has been raising the issue of election fraud since 2008. Some of its claims haven't been validated. Others have prompted county attorneys to investigate possible cases of voter fraud. Now the group's president Jeff Davis, says the goal is to prevent voter fraud.
"Once a ballot is cast it's almost impossible to undo that," said Davis. "So our program is intended to prevent those illegitimate ballots from being cast in the first place."
Davis' group has been pushing to require people to present photo identification at the polls. State law allows Minnesotans to vote without a photo ID, if they have a utility bill showing their current address or someone vouches for their residency.
Davis says his group is joining with a tea party group and the Minnesota Voters Alliance to ensure that individuals know who they're vouching for, and to videotape and track buses and vans that deliver large numbers of voters to the polls.
The groups will also run radio ads publicizing what they call the Election Integrity Watch, which will train "thousands of citizens of what to look for at the polls."
"There's a possibility that they will keep people from turning out to the polls," said Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Brian Melendez. "Harassment and intimidation should not be what this election is about."
Melendez says he thinks the plan to create "voter surveillance teams" is really an attempt to keep minorities and seniors from voting.
"There are a lot of populations that are somewhat reluctant to vote, especially some new Americans, sometimes older citizens who might say, 'I don't want to get in trouble with anybody and this is too much trouble. I'm just going to walk away,'" said Melendez.
With a few exceptions, Minnesota law bars anyone who's not voting or registering to vote to stay 100 feet from polling places. Davis, with Minnesota Majority, says the volunteers will abide by that law.
Representatives from each of the three major political parties also plan to have challengers present at each polling site to ensure that those casting ballots are eligible to vote.
- All Things Considered, 10/07/2010, 5:20 p.m.