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Minnesota Secretary of State visits polling place for accuracy testing

Ahead of elections, local polling places are required to open to the public to show their ballot counting equipment is accurate and in working order. Typically it’s a routine affair that doesn’t attract much interest, but election administration has been thrust into the spotlight following unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud in 2020.

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Election workers inspect a ballot machine at a public accuracy testing in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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BURNSVILLE, Minn. — Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited the Twin Cities suburb of Burnsville Wednesday, Aug. 3, as local officials tested election equipment ahead of the Aug. 9 primary.

Before elections, local polling places must open to the public to show their ballot counting equipment is accurate and in working order. Typically, it's a routine affair that doesn't attract much interest, but the election administration has been thrust into the spotlight following unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud in 2020.

"I think it takes on an added significance this year," Simon told reporters. "Because ... in our post-2020 environment. There is renewed interest in, as I say, the mechanics."

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Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon addresses reporters and members of the public at an accuracy testing of election equipment in Burnsville, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

Simon told the 20 or so in attendance that misinformation about the way elections work is the top threat to Democracy in the U.S., and that transparency is key to repairing trust. He said that allowing the voters to view the ballot process is a big part of that.

"When they see the way it really works in the real world, they come away with a ton of confidence," Simon said. "And they know that there are systems in place before, during and after the election to guarantee trustworthiness. So that's the good news. The more people look, the more they like (and) the more confidence they have."

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City workers ran demonstrations of three voting machines, showing how polling places accurately count ballots or reject ballots with errors such as overvotes and notify voters when they cast a blank ballot. Under Minnesota law, polling places are required to hold public accuracy testing within 14 days of an election.

Voting machines go through a two-step process before they can be used in Minnesota elections, Simon said. Every electronic voting machine used in the U.S. must first be cleared in a federally certified lab. Then they are tested by the Secretary of State's office for approval in Minnesota. Simon said local governments have the final say on the machines they use for elections, not the state.

Burnsville City Clerk Machael Collins said the group that showed up at the pre-primary accuracy testing Wednesday was the only time anyone has even shown up for the testing in her decades working for the city besides one other occasion.

"I had one city council person show up one time, but I think he just happened to be in City Hall and stopped in," she said.

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An election worker demonstrates a ballot machine to members of the public at an accuracy testing held by the city of Burnsville Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

Several people in attendance raised concerns about the integrity of the elections system with Simon, including Burnsville resident Heidi Flodin, who received voting information in the mail for her deceased father. Simon said he would investigate that case, as well as another where Flodin said a friend received voting information for her mother who had died more than a year before.

Also among those with concerns was Gregory Buck with the nonprofit Minnesota Election Integrity Solutions, a group he co-founded with Republican political consultant Jonathan Aanestad that recruits conservative election judges in Minnesota. He said that while officials could demonstrate the way the machines read ballots, they still can't show the inner workings of the system.

While Buck said Wednesday's demonstration did not clear his concerns about the voting systems, it slightly increased his trust.

GOP concerns over "election integrity" stemming from 2020 have brought greater attention to the typically sleepy races for Secretary of State, the official responsible for administering a state's elections.

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In Minnesota, GOP-endorsed candidate Kim Crockett has campaigned on promises of bringing greater security to elections, including backing voter identification legislation and curbing potential fraud by limiting the use of mail-in ballots. Democratic incumbent Simon has said he hopes to encourage trust in the elections system through transparency and dispelling myths about 2020.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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