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Editorial: Spendy voter technology provision unnecessary

February 10, 2011
Marshall Independent

The Republicans' voter ID measure on Tuesday passed the House Government Operations and Elections Committee on a 9-6 vote and will more than likely sail through the Republican-controlled Legislature. But Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer is taking the voter ID measure to the next level with an "electronic roster" provision as another means to get rid of voter fraud.

When did voter fraud become such a pandemic in Minnesota that such measures would be considered?

Research conducted by Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota last April found that there were seven cases of voter impersonation among the nearly 3,000,000 votes in the 2008 election. That's two ten-thousandths of 1 percent, and there were no convictions of voter impersonation, which is a felony.

State and county election officials work every year to avoid fraud and make the voting process as efficient and as smooth as possible, but no system is perfect and no election goes off without a hitch here or there. Still, it's hardly worth spending thousands of dollars on technology to fix a problem that barely exists (election officials have said the electronic poll books would run about $800 apiece. If each precinct needed its own poll book it would cost Lyon County more than $26,000.

Good luck getting rural counties to pony up the money for that equipment. Given every county's economic condition, how could they even ask?

Even if voter fraud was rampant and polling places were required to get hooked up to a network in order to use an electronic roster, what about the rural polling places, our tiny township halls that sit just off gravel county roads in the middle of nowhere that don't have the high-speed Internet connection needed to link them to the Secretary of State's State Voter Registration System database? Southwest Minnesota has made great strides in broadband technology throughout the last decade, but limited broadband access in some rural areas would be a huge roadblock in the implementation of electronic rosters and under Kiffmeyer's proposal any precinct with 100 or more voters would be required to have that high-speed Internet connection. That's simply not realistic.

Counties all over Minnesota have enough financial stress to deal with these days; the last thing they need is another bill. It's amazing that once again, we have to remind our legislators that now is not the time to spend money needlessly.



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