Across the state, smooth voting for most Minnesotansby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio,
Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Most Minnesotans cast their ballots Tuesday without a hitch, but there was some confusion at the polls.
MALFUNCTIONING VOTING MACHINES
Some election officials spoke of overzealous poll challengers. And Minnesota Republican Party officials said they are tracking voter complaints about malfunctioning voting machines. GOP state party chair Tony Sutton said dozens of people have called the Republican state office to report problems with voting machines. A spokesperson for the secretary of state's office said the problem doesn't appear to be worse than in previous years.
The secretary of state's office tracked down many of the complaints by calling local election officials. The office found that at least one report of a malfunctioning machine was incorrect. Local election officials said machines that malfunctioned earlier in the day have been repaired or replaced.
TENSIONS AT THE POLLS
In the Twin Cities suburb of Shakopee, Janet Waack and her boyfriend didn't realize their attempt to vote in their polling precinct would cause such a stir.
Waack, 23, said an older man sipping his coffee behind the registration desk questioned the couple's efforts to register to vote with their new address. State law allows voters to register on Election Day with their drivers licenses, as long as the address is current.
"The election judge had to quiet him down," Waack said. "He wasn't making a huge fuss, but he was definitely trying to tell us we weren't able to vote just using our ID."
Then, the Republican poll challenger pointed to a piece of paper that said same-day registered voters needed a drivers license and a utility bill.
The precinct's head election judge, Maetta Jurewicz, intervened.
"I said 'no, that's not true, if your driver's license is current,'" she said.
Jurewicz said she then flipped through her election guide and pointed to the paragraph explaining the rules.
"Then he said, 'Oh, then I was given bad information.'" She said. "And I said, 'not necessarily bad, but just not complete.'"
Call it a Minnesota-nice way of resolving some of the tension at the polls today.
Hennepin County, elections manager Rachel Smith said that aggressive poll challengers were wandering into secure areas and didn't seem to understand their role.
A CHALLENGER IN THE CORNER
In St. Paul, the handling of one Republican poll challenger led to some sore feelings.
Greg Barron said election officials at his precinct told him to sit in a chair in the corner of the room.
"I was told in a belligerent tone that I would not be allowed to walk around the room at all and I could do nothing but sit in that chair," he said.
Barron said after the Republican Party intervened, the judges allowed him to sit at a table where people were signing up for same-day registration. Barron said he's been looking for whether new registrants are carrying identification suggesting they are not U.S. citizens.
Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky said the situation was resolved.
"I just heard the challenger may have been stepping a little bit out of the legal responsibilities that he was supposed to be doing."
PLEASE ID ME FLAP
In Minneapolis, Minnesota Majority executive director Dan McGrath walked into his polling place wearing a button that says "please ID me." On Monday, a judge ruled that the button could be construed as political -- and did not belong in the polling place.
McGrath said a Minneapolis election judge asked him to take the button off, but he refused. McGrath said he received a ballot, voted and left. Later, an election judge told MPR News that poll workers filled out an incident report and will send it to the state.
McGrath said it's not clear what will happen next.
"Right now I have hanging over my head possible charges, a possible fine," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen. They accuse me of voter intimidation. They're hanging legal action over my head for voting."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Minnesota Majority received 30 to 40 calls from concerned voters reporting cases of potential fraud and other incidents, McGrath said. GOP officials also said they had received dozens of complaints about malfunctioning voter machines across the state.
According to the secretary of state's office, the issues were minor, and the problems were resolved.
COPING WITH LANGUAGE ISSUES
In the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, voting went smoothly said election judge Becky Boland -- even though the polling place had a shortage of interpreters for immigrant voters speaking Swahili and Somali.
Boland spoke slowly and assisted one voter after another when the tabulation machine spit back their ballots.
Boland said the steady stream of voters was surprising for a non-presidential year.
"A lot of people are saying that they voted last time for the presidential election for the first time ever during the presidential election, so they're coming back this year to vote again," she said.
The secretary of state's office said turnout may surpass earlier predictions of roughly 60 percent of eligible voters.
CROW WING COUNTY COMPLAINT
In Crow Wing County, authorities are investigating an allegation of voter fraud. A rural resident filed the complaint Monday, saying he saw two mentally ill voters whose absentee ballots were filled out by their caregivers.
Those with mental health issues can legally have help voting, according to Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan. He said the person who filed the complaint thought the situation was concerning.
"He didn't believe they would have the mental capacity to vote, and that the people that were assisting these individuals were exercising -- using my words -- undue influence, or basically telling them who to vote for, or just casting their votes on their behalf. That's basically the allegation we're looking into," said Ryan.
Minnesota law allows people under guardianship the right to vote, unless it's specifically revoked by a court. The Crow Wing County sheriff's department is handling the investigation.
- All Things Considered, 11/02/2010, 4:49 p.m.
Laura Yuen is a general assignment reporter covering the Twin Cities as part of MPR News' metro unit.