Minnesota usually shows up near the top, if not No. 1, in rankings of the states. But on the urgent issue of election security, Minnesota is dead last.
Despite pledges of bipartisanship for this legislative session, Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over how to spend a potential $6 million to improve election security.
Minnesota is the only state that has yet to touch its share of the $380 million federal appropriations.
Senators and representatives should agree to a plan from Secretary of State Steve Simon to use the money to upgrade the state’s 15-year-old voter system.
“Election security shouldn’t be a partisan issue or a bargaining chip,” Gov. Tim Walz said. “It’s time we join every other state in the nation and protect our elections.”
The Democrat-controlled house passed Simon’s plan while the Republican-led Senate only wants to spend $1.5 million.
Both houses have appointed members to a conference committee to resolve the issue.
Minnesota Republicans, like their colleagues in Washington, D.C., are obsessed with what they perceive as voter fraud. They want measures that actually suppress voter turnout, such as voter photo ID, instead of tackling hacking.
The Republicans’ repeated claims of widespread voter fraud have been repeatedly debunked by neutral studies. But they continue to insist people not eligible to vote, or voting in multiple locations, are swinging elections.
Instead of focusing on election myths, the Republicans should pay attention to facts.
Russians targeted Minnesota and 20 other states in what special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, released April 18, called a “sweeping and systematic fashion.”
The report reaffirms what national security professionals have concluded for almost three years. Just last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said “We are very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020. That is not just an election cycle threat, it’s pretty much a-365-days a year threat. And that has absolutely continued.”
Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer chairs the Senate committee on elections. Kiffmeyer, a Republican from Big Lake and a longtime supporter of voter ID laws, isn’t worried about hacking.
“People are being hacked all the time,” Kiffmeyer told the Star Tribune. “You’re being hacked all the time, I am. This is no big thing.”
Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) joined Kiffmeyer on the conference committee. Central Minnesotans should urge him to push back against Kiffmeyer’s foolish stand.
Cybersecurity experts say Minnesota’s use of paper ballots makes it all but impossible for hackers to change votes. But officials are more concerned by the potential for hackers to sow discord by manipulating voter rolls and casting doubt on the American election process.
Time is running out.
The Legislature should act to secure the integrity of the election system.
“I would hate to get to the point where any Minnesota voter withheld their vote because they were worried about the security of the vote or the accuracy of the results,” Simon said. “And that’s the real worry here.”