PoliGraph: Voter fraud claim inconclusive

As a special panel created by Gov. Mark Dayton convened this week to make recommendations on the state’s election rules, a group that supports a voter identification law is touting a new report about voter fraud convictions associated with the 2008 election.

“As of August 10th, 2011, 113 individuals are now known to have been convicted for voter fraud committed in 2008,” the report from Minnesota Majority, a right-leaning group, states.

Minnesota Majority may be in range, but it is difficult to pin down a precise number.

The Evidence

Minnesota Majority’s report largely focuses on felons who were ineligible to vote in the 2008 election, but did anyway. The group argues that the number may be much higher than that, but many who violate election rules avoid punishment if they can prove they did not know they were ineligible to cast a ballot.

The number of convictions represents weaknesses in the state’s same-day registration policy, the group contends.

In Hennepin County, 23 people have been convicted of voter fraud and eight cases are pending. In Ramsey County, 36 convictions have resulted from the 2008 elections as of last spring, including cases involving ineligible voters who registered, but who did not end up voting.

PoliGraph also requested voter fraud conviction data for every county in the state. The data, collected by the Minnesota Supreme Court, shows that 144 people have been convicted of voter fraud since 2009.

The Supreme Court numbers are not a perfect comparison to the Minnesota Majority’s report because the data include some cases associated with the 2010 election, and are not limited to cases involving felons who voted illegally.

Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky, who sits on the governor’s special committee and is widely considered to be a state expert on voting, said that the vast majority of such cases involve people who have been convicted of a felony, are ineligible to vote, but do anyway.

But these are isolated cases that could not be solved by implementing a voter identification law, he said. And unlike other states, there’s no evidence that Minnesota has had large, organized attempts to violate the law, Mansky said.

“This is just individuals acting on their own, with imperfect information, no information,” he said.

Furthermore, those who were found to violate the law represent far less than 1 percent of the roughly 2.9 million Minnesotans who voted in the 2008 election.

The Verdict

Based on independent information, it appears that Minnesota Majority’s estimate that 113 people have been convicted of voter fraud may be in the ballpark, though a precise number is elusive.

As a result, their claim rates inconclusive.

SOURCES

Minnesota Majority, Felon Voter Fraud Convictions Stemming from Minnesota’s 2008 General Election, October 13, 2011

Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, Facts About Ineligible Voting and Voter Fraud in Minnesota: Based on data from Minnesota County Attorneys, November 2010

In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud, By Eric Lipton and Ian Urbina, April 12, 2007

Voter fraud conviction data, Minnesota Supreme Court, Oct. 20, 2011

Voter fraud conviction data, Hennepin County, Oct. 20, 2011

Interview, Dan McGrath, Minnesota Majority, Oct. 20, 2011

Interview, Joe Mansky, Ramsey County Elections Manager, Oct. 21, 2011

Interview, John Kingrey, Executive Director, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Oct. 20, 2011