Video Replay: Final MN Secretary Of State Debate Before Election By Michael McIntee | October 29, 2014 LikeTweet EmailPrint More More on Minnesota Subscribe to Minnesota Follow this author Steve Simon (DFL), Dan Severson (R), Bob Helland (I), and Bob Odden (L) One week before election day, candidates for Minnesota secretary of state debated Tuesday at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Steve Simon (DFL), Dan Severson (R), Bob Helland (I) and Bob Odden (L) have debated several times before. You can see those debates and related stories here. This debate like the previous ones focused on topics ranging from Voter ID, military participation in voting, expanded and improved business services, and early voting. The moderator is Judy Duffy, former president of League of Women Voters Minnesota and former first vice president, United States League of Women Voters. Susan Sheridan Tucker, the LWV Minnesota, Executive Director, cited the critical role the Secretary of State plays in explaining why LWV Minnesota chose to host this forum, “With attention focusing on this important office in recent days, we expect the candidates to come prepared to articulate and clarify their views on both voting rights issues and the role of the Secretary of State in serving as the official recorder of financial and business records in Minnesota.” Read the transcript of the debate. Transcript by Angie Sundell, RPR, CRR, CBC, CCP, PARADIGM REPORTING & CAPTIONING INC. >> Good evening, everyone. I’m Paul Pribbenow, the president here at Augsburg College. It’s my great privilege to welcome you to tonight’s Minnesota Secretary of State Candidate Forum, cosponsored by the League of Women Voters and Augsburg’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship. Before we begin, I’d like to just take a few moments to say welcome to Congressman Sabo and his wife, Sylvia, who are here in the front, it’s always wonderful to have the namesake for our center here with us. [ Applause ] At Augsburg College our mission says that we educate students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers and responsible leaders. And certainly the wonderful partnership that we developed with the League of Women Voters of Minnesota is an opportunity for us to come forward with that shared commitment to informed citizenship, so it’s my pleasure to celebrate that partnership and to introduce to you Stacy Doepner-Hove who is the president of the league here in Minnesota. Stacy. [ Applause ] >> Thank you, President Pribbenow, and thank you, Augsburg College, for hosting the event tonight. It is, as you, I’m sure, would agree, a beautiful venue, and we look forward to an exciting and informative evening. The League of Women Voters Minnesota is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in our government. Which is exactly what we are doing here tonight. So thank you, each of you, for taking the time to get informed about this vitally important race for Minnesota’s next Secretary of State. And if you do want more information about the League of Women Voters, please stop by our membership table out in the atrium. I would also like to take a moment to thank our media partner, the Uptake, they are recording the proceedings tonight and the event will be available for viewing later on online, as well as streaming tonight live. I also need to share our sincere thanks with our co-sponsors for supporting this event. Jewish Community Action, the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the Minnesota State Bar Association, and the National Council of Jewish Women. Again, thank you all for attending tonight. We look forward to a great night of voter education. To get things started, I would like to introduce you to tonight’s moderator, Ms. Judy Duffy. Ms. Duffy is a League of Women Voters trained and experienced moderator and a former first vice president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. She served on the League of Women Voters U.S. board for six years as director of advocacy and is a member of the budget committee. Prior to her service on the national board, Ms. Duffy was president of the League of Women Voters Minnesota for two terms and served many years as state voter service chair. Ms. Duffy also has experience on the city council level and with various other boards and committees. And now I will hand it over to her to get things started. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Thank you, Stacy, for your introduction. Good evening and welcome to the candidates, our audience, the organizations who have partnered in this League of Women Voters event, to the students, the media who are here, and those watching or listening and especially to you, the voters. Thank you for being here. This forum, as you have heard, is being live streamed by the Uptake. It is also being video recorded by the League of Women Voters and audio recorded for playback later by Minnesota Public Radio. No other recording devices are permitted except by credentialed media. In addition to Uptake, video recording will be available by searching for LWVminnesota on YouTube or visiting the League of Women Voters Minnesota website, as listed in your program. All of this recording means three things. We’ll ask the audience to please remain quiet throughout the forum. I will be repeating the candidates’ names, both before and after each question, so that listeners can identify who the speaker is, and we ask that you be sure to silence your cell phones. For detailed information on the rules and policies for the forum, please refer to your program. These rules have been agreed upon by all of the candidates and we ask that the audience respect them as well. The views expressed this evening are those of the candidates and not those of the League of Women Voters or our partner organizations. None of us endorse candidates. The format for tonight is, the candidates will have two minutes for their opening and closing statements. Our timers are June Stuart and Kirsten Choming. Candidates will have one and a half minutes to respond to questions, unless stated otherwise, and a -second comment period will be allowed by the first speaker to each question, after all of the other candidates have responded to that question. Questions for tonight’s forum were submitted through our partner organizations through e-mail and by the audience members who are attending here this evening. This event is being interpreted in American Sign Language by Patty McCutheon and Kathy Moescher. All questions have been reviewed by a three-person committee composed of league members Jerry Nelson and Barb Pearson and Marcy Harris, representing the National Council of Jewish Women. The order in which candidates answer questions will alternate and they have drawn numbers to determine the order of their opening statements. Out of consideration for other candidates and the audience, we ask candidates to please respect these time limits and hold all applause until the end of the forum. The forum will conclude by : . We will begin, first, by introducing our candidates after we get through all of this. Sitting to my immediate left is Mr. Steve Simon, representing the D.F.L. party, Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. Mr. Bob Helland, representing the Independence party. Mr. Bob Odden, representing the Libertarian party. And Mr. Dan Severson, representing the Republican party. We have drawn lots to determine who will open, make the first opening statement, and Mr. Bob Helland will begin. >> Thank you, Judy, and thank you to all of you for being here tonight. Thank you to the League of Women Voters, thank you to Augsburg College, thank you to the Uptake, thank you to everyone who’s out there watching right now. Thanks to all the other partners that make this type of civic opportunity available to you one week before the election day. I can’t tell you how much it’s a thrill for me to be on stage with these gentlemen, to be a part of this race, the nine-month effort that we’ve put forward, and every day it’s a surprise, every day it’s exciting, it’s fun, and I feel I’m doing something that’s important for the state of Minnesota. I may strike many of you as a very different candidate, not only am I a third party, the third major party in the state, the Independence party’s candidate, but I’m also years old, and I’d be the youngest statewide elected executive in the nation. I have a little bit different appearance than most people expect of politicians. But I think that’s something that’s important. We are changing the culture of elections in Minnesota. We have a fabulous election system that provides access and we have our legislature over the years to thank for those types of privileges. You’re going to hear me talk about different aspects of the office of Secretary of State. It’s important for me that we talk about restoring the full function of the office of Secretary of State, which aside from elections administration will include business services, Uniform Commercial Code access, civic education, doing things like preparing the students’ edition of the legislative manual, there’s so many parts of state government and of our civil society that this office reaches out to and makes it easier for you to be a citizen in Minnesota. So, as much as we’re going to talk about elections, I want to let you know right now that photo identification’s going to be a big topic, but it’s nothing that anyone up here is either going to make happen or prevent from happening because it’s a legislative role. So stay tuned for a fun conversation. And please do stick around afterwards and I’d be happy to chat with you. >> Thank you, Mr. Helland. Mr. Bob Odden, your opening statement. >> It’s Dan. >> I’m sorry. You are right, Mr. Dan Severson. >> Thank you, thank you so much, particularly to those of you who have gathered here tonight and those who are listening to hear about the office of the Secretary of State. Many people don’t understand what it does, elections and business. And taking the time to make an educated voice — vote in this process is fundamental to our republic. I want to tell you just momentarily why I am so passionate about this issue, which is voting. My grandfather served in World War I. My father served in World War II and was deployed over in Europe. My mom welded ships while her husband, her first husband, was over in the Philippines and gave his life for liberty for this purpose. Myself, I served in the Gulf War and in the Cold War. My son served in Afghanistan and Iraq and my son-in-law served in Afghanistan. For years I put on the uniform to protect the Constitution of the United States and this voting is one of those foundational rights. Voting is one of those things that each of us takes very seriously or should take very seriously. The second part of that, and I believe, which is the office of the Secretary of State is responsible for is making sure that vote is secure and that it’s counted correctly. You know, I had opportunity about two weeks ago to talk with my son on the phone, and I asked him, because I’m working on the military vote, if he was able to vote while he was overseas. And he said, you know, dad, I did vote. I voted absentee, but I don’t think it counted because I saw it the day before the election sitting in a bag on the tarmac. That’s a problem. And that’s one of the things that we are going to talk about a little bit tonight, how do we enfranchise, how do we make sure that the people not just who are serving our country, but the new Americans who come here and are eager to participate in this process get the education they need to do just that, to cast the vote to make sure that the people they elect are the people that they want. Thank you. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Now we will hear from Mr. Odden. >> Long anticipated. >> Hi, I’m Bob Odden, I’m an engineer. I graduated from the University of Minnesota. I was an idealist. I read books written by liberal authors on how to fix the problems of the world. And you know how they ended all those books? They basically said, well, we do not know how to fix the problems, but we need to spend other people’s money until we fix them. That was — within the books they contain the solution to those problems. And the solution was, the government needs to turn people loose to be creative. And that made me a Libertarian. As a Libertarian, I believe in liberty and liberty is the — is freedom tempered by human rights. No one could be against that. And that as a Libertarian, I also took an oath not to commit fraud and I hold others to that same standard. I then worked for years with helping the employees and the public to prevent loss, injury and death. And I saved people from thousands of injuries and saved hundreds of lives in doing that. I did that by leading. All systems, like the election process, have inherent problems. By analyzing data and viewing processes for their problem causes, working collaboratively with others on solutions, then implementing and then following up to see that it produced the desired results. That’s what I did as an engineer. To educate voters, I created my own public cable TV access show, Libertarian Viewpoint, seen in over cities. The show presents nongovernment solutions to problems. The constitutional office of Secretary of State requires a desire to follow the law, to look for problems to solve them, leadership, and the desire to educate voters, and I’ve demonstrated these qualities. I’m Bob Odden, thank you for attending the debate. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Now we will hear an opening statement from Mr. Steve Simon. >> I want to thank Augsburg College and the Sabo Center for having this event and having us all here. I’m Steve Simon, the D.F.L. candidate for Secretary of State and I’m running because we need to put Minnesota’s interests above politics. Particularly in this office. And that, to me, means at least a couple of things. First, it means someone who’s fair, someone who can be impartial, someone who can be and has a record of being truly nonpartisan. Second, it means a Secretary of State who always remembers that in Minnesota, we should make it as easy as possible, not harder, but as easy as possible for all eligible voters to vote. Period. That has been our tradition. That has been our culture. And that’s why I suspect in Minnesota for nine elections in a row, think about that, nine elections in a row, Minnesota has led the nation in turnout. That is something to be proud of. That’s not a Democratic accomplishment or a Republican accomplishment or Libertarian or Independent. That’s a Minnesota accomplishment. And, so, from day one in the legislature, where I’ve served for ten years, where I now chair the Elections Committee, I’ve really had a passion for, an interest in exactly these issues that pertain to the office, whether it’s ballot access, or election reform or voter rights, these are the issues that matter to Minnesotans. And let me give just one example that I’m most proud of. I suspect it will come up a little bit later tonight. You all may know about the new law that’s on the books known by various names, no excuses absentee voting, or vote by mail, or vote from home. That was my personal project and passion for seven years. I wrote that law. But I didn’t do it alone. I did it in a bipartisan way, really, multipartisan way, you might say, by bringing everyone to the table, Democrats, Republicans, and others, to get something that was fair, durable, and that would work for Minnesota and to make our already best-in-the-nation system even better. That’s a legacy I’m proud of. And the way that we know that it’s truly bipartisan is that all the major political parties are promoting the heck out of it right now. They’re saying, go out and vote early. Make use of it. Vote from home. And that makes me proud. So going forward, we have to continue to build on the successes of the past but make sure we have a true office for the st century, but it’s about access and it’s about true nonpartisanship and that’s what I offer. Thank you. >> Thank you, Steve Simon. Our first question this evening will be directed first to Mr. Severson. There is a dramatic difference between turnout for presidential elections and midterm elections. Additionally, turnout in communities of color and other minority groups consistently lags behind white voter turnout in Minnesota. As Secretary of State, what concrete steps will you take toward closing these gaps and how are you uniquely qualified to solve this problem? >> Thank you. You know, I lost the last election by about three points. When I lost the election in , I really figured out that there are a lot of people down in the inner city who really don’t have the opportunity or the knowledge of how to vote. I have some close friends here tonight who are with me, and Yosef, who is a very close friend, voted for the first time in the last election. And we have people who have amazing stories, who come to America because of the freedom and opportunity that America has and they don’t know how to break into the political system. And, so, part of my process for the last three years has been getting into those communities and talking with them. And part of that process has also been reaching into those communities and saying, we need participants from your community. We aren’t asking you just to vote for us or me, in particular, I’m asking you to raise up people from within your community who have the heart of your community, who really want to see their community represented in government and then start to train them in how do we go about this process, how do we raise you up, how do we filter through all of the political stuff to find out who’s really going to represent your values. And, so, part of my process as Secretary of State will be to continue that outreach into these new American communities and get their participation. You know, when I went to a Hmong church a little while ago, I talked to the pastor and the pastor said, my people don’t vote. That’s not right. And that’s part of what we need to do in our process and I will do as Secretary of State is to create those relationships that actually bring them to the polling booth. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. We’ll now hear from Mr. Bob Helland. >> Great. Thank you. So, there are obviously cycles within the election system. The question had mentioned that presidential turnout had higher turnout than the midterms. A lot of that plays into the amount of interest that people have and I think I am uniquely qualified to get people interested, especially those that have historically lower turnout. I see a lot of my peers out there and I hope in the course of my campaign I’m reaching those people, and younger, and younger, wherever you want to cut the line, the turnout isn’t where it needs to be and I think a lot of that just has to be with how the candidates are approaching them and reaching out to them and that’s one of the reasons I really like to speak from my heart, I like to speak from my experience. One of my biggest points of experience is having worked for the Department of Revenue for five years, and in that role I was a business registration expert talking to tens of thousands of businesses, so not only are people of color and new Minnesotans in the state struggling on the voting and that civic aspect, but they’re also struggling to navigate the complexity of our state agencies when they’re trying to set up a business or set up their livelihood or a nonprofit to help their community. So, again, I want to expand the discussion of this office to voting and the business services and everything that any community and any Minnesotan will need to rely on. So I do think I am uniquely qualified being a young person who’s really just speaking to you from my heart and trying to reach you. Thank you. >> Thank you, Bob Helland. Now we will hear from Mr. Steve Simon. >> We have a participation gap in Minnesota. You’ve heard of the achievement gap. We have a participation gap. We are rightly proud of the fact that for nine elections in a row we’ve been tops in turnout. But that high turnout rate is not evenly distributed. And as the question supposes, it’s true, we have real gaps and real barriers in Minnesota. There are a few things I think we can do particularly with new Americans. Now, I’m the son of an immigrant. My mother was an immigrant from Austria, on my father’s side, my great grandparents, I like to say didn’t just immigrate, they fled, they fled for this country from eastern Europe because they were mistreated. So I know in my D.N.A. the value of a vote but there are barriers there. One thing we can do is just to provide more information. There’s study after study that says, when new Americans, in particular, have the information about the tools available to them, to us, to all of us, whether it’s the new no excuse absentee voter law that I wrote, whether it’s online voter registration, which I also wrote, whether it’s the host of reforms that we have in Minnesota, when they know about that, they will use those things. When they don’t, they won’t. It’s common sense, but it’s true. Secondly, I think we could do more with printing more materials in foreign languages. It’s something so simple. We’ve done this for over years. Starting in the s, we used to print ballot information and other information in Finnish and Swedish and French and German. But we’ve tapered off and I think we have to do that again in this new age. And, finally, I think, we’ve got to cut through sort of the cultural barrier. There are some who come to this country from places where voting was not prized or where the fix was in in a corrupt system and we have to convince people of the real use of that voice, exercising that voice and that vote. That matters. >> Thank you, Mr. Simon. We’ll now hear from Mr. Bob Odden. >> There were problems in getting out the information to people, no doubt. You know, I was going to vote in the primary one time. I was trying to keep it in mind. And it was never in the paper. I mean, you know, I read the “Star Tribune” religiously and it was never in there. And I was never reminded to go out there to vote. It was just like the primary never existed or whatever. A lot of people in the black community probably don’t vote because they don’t understand how they get the candidates they’re voting for. They should be part of the caucus system. I mean, they should be encouraged to get there on the first Tuesday of February, you know. If they don’t show up, they don’t get the candidates they want. So, we need to work on that. We need to get them involved. And we need to get them involved more than just two parties. I mean, it’s just like Coke and Pepsi. If you know there’s only going to be Coke and Pepsi on the ballot, you know, you’re going to go, I mean, you know, kind of boring. You need something to liven it up. You need something like root beer or a Dr. Pepper or maybe even Mountain Dew. I mean, that gets excitement, you know. Just not the same old-same old. So if we can get them involved in caucus and then put somebody on the ballot that would actually interest them, we could get them out to vote. >> Okay. Thank you, Mr. Odden. Our next question, in what specific ways will you engage with the business community to help ensure the Secretary of State’s office effectively meets the needs of business, for-profit and nonprofit constituents? We’ll begin with Mr. Simon. >> Well, thank you for the question. I appreciate that. It’s an underreported part of the office. A majority of the employees in the Secretary of State’s office actually work in the business services function. And, so, it’s important to address those needs. I’m proud to have recently received the endorsement of Small Business Minnesota, prestigious local business group made up of small businesses and entrepreneurs who really value the services that they get from the Secretary of State’s office. But there’s more we can do. The bottom line for me is, making sure that it’s as easy as possible in Minnesota to start a business from a technical or paperwork standpoint, but, more importantly, that it’s as easy as possible in Minnesota to preserve a business. I want our business people spending more time running their businesses and not dealing with paperwork. So I’ve already talked about convening a panel of business experts and practitioners across the community and across Minnesota to make sure we can streamline all the processes in the Secretary of State’s office that we possibly can to make it as effortless as possible. Another thing I’m interested in doing is experimenting with what I called a digital welcome mat, an online web portal that would be, if not a one-stop shop for business, something very close. Where a business doesn’t just go to the website to file certain papers with the Secretary of State’s office, but could also, as many other states now have done, get, for example, a tax I.D. number or industry-specific information or property information if they intend to establish a physical presence. The bottom line is the Secretary of State’s office is often the first portal, the first doorway, into Minnesota for those not here. We should make it as welcoming as possible. And I want to do that. >> Thank you, Steve Simon. Bob Odden. >> Well, you know, you go online and then you can see, like, five stars for something or whatever, you know. They’re doing a good job, you know. People give good reviews. Why not subject the Secretary of State’s office to the same kind of public diligence? Why can’t people say, this is my experience with the Secretary of State’s office. Why can’t we put out surveys, ask people, especially people that have been through the process and get information from them, on how we could have made the process better. Some of this can be automated, some of this can be directly contacting people, perhaps forming roundtables or whatever. There are ways of addressing this. You have to find out, first of all, where the people are having problems. Then you have to find out what you can do about it, you know. You get together and come up with ideas. And then you try implementing something, and if it works, well, then, you’re done. Typically, though, you know, it doesn’t totally solve the problem and you keep working on it. That’s the engineer in me. But people have a good idea what needs to be done. People as — well — a group, they can come up with good decisions. And we should respect that. >> Thank you, Bob Odden. Bob Helland. >> Thank you. Great question. I’m glad that it’s getting out early on in the gates here. I’d have to say as the guy who’s been walking around for eight months saying, I’m the business services candidate in the race that I’m kind of the Mountain Dew when it comes to lobbying up this issue. So, what did I do for so many years at the Department of Revenue? I was a business registration expert and a tax compliance expert. So I was on the other end of that line issuing tax identification numbers, and it never made sense to me why people were so confused coming from the Secretary of State’s office to the Department of Revenue. There’s so much confusion out there and that problem’s only magnified when there are communication barriers or cultural barriers, and that’s something that I worked through in my experience to overcome and help people, help young people, help new Minnesotans, help women, everybody deserves access to these systems. What’s not happening is exactly what Mr. Odden said. That they’re not listening, you know. As an employee that was screaming about this issue for years, I didn’t feel listened to and that’s what prompted me after five years to say, if I don’t perceive leadership on this issue, I have to become the leadership on the issue. And that’s why I’m in the race today because I think I can make a difference and the fact that this issue’s getting that much more acknowledgement than it has in the past is really critical. So a couple things that I want to do is the biggest, one of the biggest things we can do is get into colleges and high schools. People are paying $ , for a business degree and they come out, you say, what does the Secretary of State do? They have no idea. We need to change that. >> Okay. Thank you, Bob Helland. And now Dan Severson. >> Thank you. You know, and if you go to my website, Danseverson.com, I’ve got my first -day plan on there and part of that first -day plan is to take some of the private sector successful business leaders, bring them in with the new Americans that are coming into the country and starting businesses and have a roundtable and basically say, what are the barriers that you’re experiencing? Particularly, licensure and certification. Be able to identify those and then take those to the legislature for resolution. I just want to tell a quick story. I was down in a state fair down in southern Minnesota. And I was talking to a businessperson down there. And he said, you know what? I’ve got this drywall business and I’ve been working at this for seven or eight years. All of a sudden, about two years ago, I get a notification from the Department of Revenue that I’m two years behind in my taxes. What had transpired is some of the regulations that were applicable to his business had been passed at thethe legislature but he hadn’t been notified. That should have been the Secretary of State’s responsibility to help in that process, working with the Department of Revenue to say, you know what? Here’s a little bit of change in your business status, you need a heads-up on this. Consequently, he almost lost his business because he didn’t have enough revenue to make up those taxes and had to really scramble to keep his business afloat. We need to be much more proactive, go a single source, out of the Secretary of State’s office where we can take the database, basically allow those business owners to sign a nondisclosure that says, you know what, you can share the information with the other departments, give them — us that authority, Secretary of State, and we will share that information when it becomes pertinent and we will make that bridge to the businesses, it needs to happen, so you aren’t waiting in line at a department agency. You’re doing business. >> Thank you, Dan Severson. We’ll now have a series of questions that have been addressed to each of the candidates specifically and then I will ask the other candidates to respond to the same topic. This first question is for Mr. Odden. Minnesota’s primary election was moved from September to August to increase voting access for overseas citizens, specifically service members. You have mentioned in previous forums that this change negatively impacted third-party candidates who need time to gather signatures. As Secretary of State, what steps would you take to balance these interests? Mr. Odden. >> Well, what happened was is that — when they moved the primary date, for some reason, the petitioning period is tied to the primary date. No minor party can be in a primary. It is not allowed. So, tying the petitioning period to the primary date makes absolutely no sense. So it used to be, like the first couple weeks of July, which was great. Now it’s like the last week of May, the first week of June. You know, you get some cool, wet weather, you know, you’re going to be standing out there in the middle of the street soaked, trying to get signatures. And then there was an attempt to move it even further, which would have put it into March. That would have destroyed third parties. You can’t get signatures with frostbite. It just isn’t possible. It’s a significant concern. And first of all, none of this was brought to the attention of third parties. No, we weren’t even asked, even though on the audio record that I guess — well, Steve Simon said that we were in favor of it, which was totally not true. Also, the period of two weeks is really — it is conceivably short. And legally, I think we would stand a good case of suing the State to lengthen that period of time. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Mr. Dan Severson. >> Thank you. And as I referenced the Overseas Military Act, and that was the Move Act that was passed in and that was supposed to extend the primary to an earlier date so that our troops had the opportunity to actually get a ballot days before the election. It was the right move to do but it’s still highly inadequate. Just as I referenced with my son, watching his vote sitting on the tarmac out there, it’s not working. We’ve had a number of years to actually get some results in. It’s been a marginal improvement. But our military is still, in a presidential year, only voting at about % participation. That’s abysmal. In a nonpresidential year, about to %, that’s a national issue. We as Minnesotans have a technology and an innovative edge that should put us in the front of this. And, so, what I’m recommending is that we do online voter — voting with our military. They have access to secure networks through the D.O.D., and they have secure I.D. cards. They can go online, they can put their vote in, it will count immediately and then they can do a follow-on hard copy ballot to make sure it counts. But we have to, we have to reach out to these military people who are putting their lives on the line and we have to have a solid solution. Arizona already does this. Nevada’s just getting ready to get on board and there are four or five other states that are ready to position themselves for this. It’s proven technology. We have the technology now. And, so, for us not to do this, I think is wrong. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Mr. Steve Simon. >> Well, one of my proudest accomplishments in the legislature was writing the law that moved the primary. If you remember, for many decades, our primary was in mid September, which was a tremendous disadvantage to Minnesotans overseas, mostly military, but not only, students, diplomats, business people, missionary, people of all kinds from Minnesota. Because that eight-week window was simply too tight. So I wrote the law that moved it to August. I wanted it to go to June but we had to settle for an August primary. I still favor a June primary, with this sort of exception. I agree that we should not impose undue burdens and a heavy hand on third parties. I think that’s wrong. And, so, I would support legislation that would move the primary earlier, but would, at the same time, accommodate and help third parties so they aren’t out in the cold having to get signatures and that might mean playing with the day a little bit, it might mean playing with the volume of signatures that are required. I don’t know. But I think that is a fair accommodation. You always have to balance those interests and what we did in moving the primary, I think, was the right thing to do. It still in some cases is inadequate in the sense that there are still ballots that don’t get there on time. And I’d like to move it earlier, and I think that’s the best way to go. >> Thank you, Mr. Simon. Bob Helland. >> Chapter Section Subdivision of Minnesota statutes is the definition of major party. When Steve Simon mentions a heavy hand on third parties, this is what we’re talking about, the definition of major party status, and I am a representative of a major party, but I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the effort that Mr. Odden and all of the third-party candidates, Green Party, Grassroots, Legalize Cannabis, they all went through a much greater effort to get on the ballot than I had to. And that’s something we need to be aware of. There’s a privileged class of candidates in our political system that stems from this one definition of major party. The difference being, Mr. Odden was out in the cold at times or in the rain at times gathering signatures and I and the other two candidates on the stage were able to pay $ to become a candidate on your ballot. So when we’re talking about third parties and access in the primaries, I’m going to get the information out there to those third parties, let them know what they need to do, when they need to do it, I’m going to set an example as someone outside the two-party system that shows, that’s blazing a trail for how you can do this. Again, the minor parties in our state have to go through much more rigamarole to get on the ballot and then at that point, it’s still harder for them to get into debates because the culture of our elections grants media outlets the privilege to say, we won’t let you have an opportunity to speak because you don’t meet this definition. But they’ve done a lot of great work. >> Thank you, Bob Helland. Thank you. Our next question is directed to Mr. Simon. And I will again ask each of you to respond to this. Minnesota already leads the nation in voter turnout. On your website, you say, early voting removes another barrier to increased voter participation while reducing congestion at the polls. Will the added cost of implementing early voting result in an increase in voter turnout and by what margin? Will early voting jeopardize the integrity of election results? Steve Simon. >> Well, I am a strong supporter of straight-up or true early voting. What we have now is the next best thing. That’s no excuses absentee voting, which I worked on for seven years, as I mentioned earlier. But I’d like to see us move in the direction of what states already have, including every state that surrounds us, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, which is true early voting. Meaning a period of a week or two before election day when voters can actually cast a ballot that is processed that day, as opposed to being put in an envelope, stored, and not fully processed until after the polls close. There are a lot of advantages. One of the advantages is cost. It is a net cost saver in everywhere that I’m aware of that has tried it. The reason for that is the absentee voting process, which is necessary and vital and important is also expensive. There are all sorts of costs involved from the two-way postage to the so-called absentee ballot boards that all counties and jurisdictions have to convene. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to absentee balloting. Not so, necessarily, for early voting on a consolidated basis where counties would have the choice about what polling places would remain open at particular times and states have done it, red states have done it, blue states have done it, and it’s been tremendously successful. It’s just another overlay on the great system that we already have to make Minnesota’s first in the nation and best-in-the-nation system even better and that’s what I’m committed to. >> Thank you, Steve Simon. Now Bob Odden, same question. >> We could vote early in this state now, is it days in advance. And then that’s truly benefit the Democrat party. There’s always the fear that maybe it might snow on — like election day and then their voters don’t turn out. So, by voting early, you get nice weather, you know, people will turn out. It’s ridiculously early, though. A lot of things can happen in days. This debate you’re hearing right now is seven days prior to the election. You may have already voted prior to — you know a lot of people who have already voted without actually hearing everything that they maybe should about the candidate. A lot of things can happen in the economy, a lot of things could happen in the world and have in the past just prior to an election. So voting days in advance, I think is crazy. It’s more than any other state in the union. A week, maybe that would be good. Whether it increases voter participation or not is out there for debate. A lot of people forget, you know, they keep putting it off and then they don’t vote. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Now Bob Holland. >> Helland, thank you. >> Helland, excuse me. >> No problem. Not a problem. I need to use this opportunity to distinguish myself from Representative Simon. What he just told us was he spent seven years in the legislature to achieve his principal signature act. Seven years in the legislature. That’s where Constitution Article III Section , the division of powers, enters my frame of mind and says, if I’m elected to a four-year executive term, I’m not going to spend seven years in the legislature. I’m also not going to get up on a bully pulpit and try to do the work of the legislature. They have their job, the Secretary of State has theirs, and I’m going to use my four years to prioritize what Minnesota is not doing best, which is those business services. Absolutely we are going to keep the tradition of maintaining the highest voter turnout, we’re going to reach younger voters and all of our new Minnesotans, we’re going to improve our technology. That’s my background, my experience. But this was a great question. The question was, what is the marginal benefit effectively of the effort of getting this legislation passed? And, honestly, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of Minnesota. We have other priorities, civic education, business services, the Safe at Home program, those are all things that demand the attention and I would be remiss if I spent my time as an executive trying to be a legislator. That’s a fundamental difference between Mr. Simon and I. So I hope you consider that. I don’t think that early voting will lead to fraud. I don’t necessarily think it will marginalize third parties. Again, we need to get them involved in other ways. Thanks. >> Thank you, Mr. Helland. And now from Dan Severson. >> I think one of the distinctions we need to make between absentee voting and early voting is that if you absentee vote and I’ll use the unfortunate example of Senator Paul Wellstone, who died just about ten days before the election, if that absentee ballot goes in, the individuals that voted for him still have the opportunity to claw that ballot back and say, you know what, I want a revote because I’m not sure who’s filling that spot. Now in early voting, if that goes in, and that’s within that ten-day window of early voting, that ballot is cast. You’ve lost your opportunity to revote. And, so, that’s one of the drawbacks of early voting. Having said that, I do support faster, easier, safer the way we can get — the best way to get people to the polls is to make it to the easiest way we possibly can and to accommodate them to do that, I would support about two weeks prior to the election day for early voting. So much of what happens in politics happens in the end game. And, so, people need to take the time to understand, as you are doing here tonight, which is admirable and is what every Minnesotan should be doing, is learning what the issues are and how the candidates stand on those issues. And I think with that in mind, whatever form it takes in order to allow people to participate is what I would be pushing for and, again, talking about relationship and the real, the real gains will be made in that participation when we reach into these new American communities and begin to communicate with them their civil responsibilities as well. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Our next question is directed to Mr. Helland. Throughout your campaign, you have focused on your qualifications and plans for the business side of the Secretary of State. But you’ve said little about the voting responsibilities. What specific skills qualify you to be the state chief election officer? Mr. Helland. >> On the contrary, the premise of the question stated that I’m not very vocal on voter issues, and I think I’m really expanding not — we’re getting too caught up in photo identification. Minnesota spoke on that issue several years ago and we said we didn’t want it. If we want it again, it’s going to go through the constitutional channels, which is through your elected representative, through the legislature. It’s going to be their responsibility, not any one of the four of us, to get that passed, if that’s what the people want. So, I am really speaking about access in these elections, and I think it’s gone unnoticed, actually. Everyone’s talking about voter access and how that pertains with photo identification requirements, but, again, we really need to address candidate access as part of our culture of elections. We are — we talk about Democracy and how great it is to hear everyone’s voice and have an opportunity to do so, but there are situations where people are not being invited to participate in debates, they’re not getting the fair media coverage in many cases, and I’m raising the issue to go not just for voters but for the candidates. In terms of how I’ll excel in the function, it’s going to come down to personnel, the partnerships we make with our federal and local partners and the technology that we use to facilitate this. I have actual experience in fraud detection and fraud prevention, and I think that’s critical not talking about legislative priorities but actual real-world experience. >> Thank you. Mr. Severson. >> Would you mind repeating the question for me, please? >> Throughout your campaign, you have focused on your qualifications and plans for the business side of Secretary of State. But you’ve said little about voting responsibilities. What specific skills qualify you to be the chief elections officer? >> I think, you know, targeted towards Bob Helland on that question, but I also want to talk about how do we make it faster, easier, safer for people to participate. And, so, one of the things, if you go to my -day plan, you’ll see that one of the things that I’m pushing forward is express lane voting, and that is really freeing up the lines for those people that want to voluntarily use photo I.D., they can go to half of the designated lines, which are designated for that purpose, and the other conventional — the other lines would be dedicated to the conventional, the way we do it now. Now, the beauty of that is, some people don’t have the time, some people just, particularly down in high-congestion areas, they only have a marginal amount of time, a small amount of time to be able to cast their vote. And, so, if they go in to the voting place and it’s right after work, they have to get home to cook dinner for their kids, particularly for single moms, this is one of those things that we have put barriers in front of them. And what this would do is they can go into the express lane, they can be in and out in five to ten minutes. If they don’t, if we don’t have that, and people are being disenfranchised now because they don’t have the time to participate, they’re standing out in the cold, they’re waiting to cast their ballot, and many people who are in this position have to have baby-sitters, they have to be someplace very quickly, this gives them the opportunity, and, again, this is voluntary, this is not mandatory, it gives them the opportunity to get through the process quickly and then get home and do the things that they need to do. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Mr. Simon. >> I’ve really put my heart and soul into these issues for a decade in the legislature. As I mentioned, I’m chair of the Elections Committee now and that’s really given me a front-row seat into this whole area of policy. One of the things that I’m really proud of in this campaign is I’ve made a special effort as I’ve traveled around the state to meet separately one on one wherever possible with elections officials, usually called by the name county auditor, sometimes auditor/treasurer and I’ve learned a great deal from them. The actual practitioners, the front-line folks who really are the spine of the system. And they tell me that we have a good thing going in Minnesota. Always to be improved upon and reformed, yes, but we have a good thing going. And one of the reasons we have been number one for nine elections in a row in turnout is exactly that continuity and that quality in Minnesota. So there’s more we can do. Straight up true early voting is one. Another is sort of automated voter registration, like other states have experimented with, which I think is a good idea. Cost effective, saves a lot of money and is very popular where it’s been tried. But, you know, I have to caution us on some of the solutions that seem to be solutions in search of a problem or at least those that would have an adverse effect on people. I really don’t support this idea of sort of a Lexus lane for voting, or so-called express voting. It seems to be a separate but equal system. All I have to go on is Dan’s own words when he characterized on tea party TV show in the spring, he said, if you don’t want to show an I.D., be my guest, you can go over to the side and wait in line two hours in the cold, that’s fine, end quote. I don’t think that kind of sentiment has any place in the Secretary of State’s office. And it doesn’t even make sense in the sense that % of people have I.D.s. So wouldn’t that be the long line? And wouldn’t the people without I.D.s be the short line? I don’t think it’s very well thought out. >> Thank you, Mr. Simon. Mr. Bob Odden. >> Just as an aside, was it Georgia had their voter I.D. law challenged and, you know, while it was being challenged, it was in place for a number of years, and judge finally threw out the challenge because the Democrat party could not find one individual that had ever been disenfranchised by the law. They couldn’t name one individual. Really important to the third party, all you ever hear is Republican, Democrat, they write the rules. Like there are three ways to become a major party. Two of them in years have never been tried because it’s impossible, it’s never been done, it will never ever be done. When we were formed as a territory — as a state in , you only required % of people signing the petition that had voted for governor. It’s % now. That’s , good signatures done in a very short period of time. It’s not possible. % would be , . Now, it’s a large number still. But we — we basically got — was it something like , to get five people on the ballot. It’s doable. And if the state would simply change the rules, we — we represent about % of the population as Libertarian. They need a voice. >> Thank you, Mr. Bob Odden. Our next question has been directed — pardon me? >> Do I get a rebut on that? >> Certainly, you would like to speak to that, Mr. Severson? >> Well, just about the separate but equal statement that Representative Simon had mentioned in this. And I don’t think that’s appropriate in this process because, really, what we’re talking about is new ideas and how do we accentuate these new ideas, how do we probe into finding how we can make the system better. When we begin the race baiting of separate but equal and the whole type of deal, I think we degrade the conversation and we need to keep it above board. Minnesotans are tired of confrontative politics and I think it’s time just to let’s talk about the issues without being insundry. >> Thank you. Mr. Helland, you wanted to speak? >> Well, just touching on the photo identification, it’s not a cost-effective measure. We’re in an odd situation here, another fundamental difference between both Steve and Dan and I is they represent themselves in the official capacity of what they do. I’m prohibited by law from doing so, but we need to understand what goes into a system of producing photo identification, how much that costs, and, you know, the separate but equal idea for voters, we do have that for candidates as well. So, consider those. Please do. >> Mr. Simon, would you care to speak to that? >> Well, since it’s early enough in the debate, I want to talk about the idea of insundry politics. I agree, it has no place in this office. I’m not the one, Dan Severson was, on election night , who said Minnesota’s vote for Obama was immoral. I’m not the one, he was, who said last year that our schools in Minnesota, our public schools, are teaching socialism to our kids. I’m not the one who two weeks ago at a press conference said that our Commander in Chief was intentionally, intentionally, that was the question, interfering with the military vote. That’s insundry and that has, indeed, no place in this race or this office. >> Thank you. Mr. Odden, would you care to respond to any of this? >> Ah. [ Laughter ] Feel a little left out of the conversation here. [ Laughter ] You know, voters rejected voter I.D. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, it’s out the window. You know, it’s not in consideration. But we do need to determine the eligibility of voters prior to voting. Because once they vote, the vote goes in and it can’t be taken out. And a lot of times we don’t even know who the people are who are fraudulently voting because we didn’t determine it in advance. >> Okay. Thank you. This question has been directed to Mr. Severson. On your website your express lane voting proposal states that, quote, maybe . % of the voters may not have an I.D. card and can still use the conventional method, unquote. You’ve also suggested that express lane voting is faster and easier for voters. The other . % of those in line on election day. Based on your own numbers, why do you feel there is a need for an express lane? What will it accomplish? And at what cost to taxpayers? Mr. Dan Severson. >> I think the cost is minimum. We’re already approving poll books by this last legislature. So there are some things that we would need to tweak right there. But the issue really is, how do we better accommodate people, and I was a poll watcher for the first time in the last election because I wasn’t on the ballot, and I was at the polling place, watching the line languish outside, in the cold, wet, people who should have not been standing in line were standing in line for a long time. That’s admirable. They want to exercise their civic duty. But we can do it faster, easier, safer. And with the technology that we have today, and let me say, we are in the th century technology in elections. It’s cumbersome. We can go through the polling books, through the electronic process, swipe the card, identify immediately and you can even move into ERIC, which is Electronic Registration Information System, which is currently being used in a number of states, and we can get same-day registrations verified right there, and, so, all of this is new technology that we should be implementing. Now, the absentee voting is great, it’s been great in the past, but it’s last year’s technology. It’s way back there. And, so, we should be moving forward in this process, particularly paying attention to those people who have time constraints, who we are disenfranchising right now because they simply can’t take the time to vote. That’s the other, you know, the percentage that we can improve on and that’s what express lane voting is about, easier, faster, safer, voluntary. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Mr. Bob Helland. >> What are the costs of these changes that are being proposed through legislation? What is the cost of express lane voting? I’m not going to go into details commenting on it because I don’t really think that legislation’s going anywhere and it’s not something I see happening, express lane voting, in the next cycle. So — but we need to address the cost of these things. I come from state employment, where I’ve worked for many years, for ten years before that I worked in the software development arena. So I’ve been involved with very large technology projects for the State. I left one agency that was a $ million project to go to another one that had a much higher project and then we also have things like Mnsure. So when we’re talking about the numbers, I know Steve Simon has proposed on his website using a Delaware model for the state of Minnesota for automated D.V.S. registration, but that’s completely out of touch with the demographic and geographic reality. He uses an example of a $ , system that we would be able to implement here in our state. If you compare the two states, we have counties, cities, to three counties in Delaware with four D.M.V. offices, we have over D.V.S. locations which aren’t actually state employee-run facilities. So the reality of these proposals is not being forecast in terms of how much it will cost and no one’s making a case that it’s going to add that much benefit to the system that’s already the best in the nation. Let’s focus on other priorities. >> Thank you, Mr. Helland. Mr. Bob Odden. >> Express lane, you know, with early voting and the early absentee ballot voting, you’re going to have fewer people, obviously, on election day in lines trying to vote. So I think, you know, we do not even know how that works yet. And I have a feeling that that might be a self-correcting problem. The problem, though, people standing outside in the rain, in the cold, that’s a problem, a failure of the Secretary of State’s office. You know, was that facility big enough? I mean, wasn’t there any room for people on the inside? What was going on that was maybe slowing things down, causing a delay? I mean, these are things that need to be investigated and looked into. If it was like in the Somali community, was it because they needed translations? Whatever. You know, we need to know the particulars of why they were standing outside and couldn’t get in right away to vote. So, the express lane, you know, admirable idea, but, you know, it may prove not to be necessary. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Mr. Steve Simon. >> I think the real issue here is congestion at the polling places on election day. Particularly in presidential election years. I think one solution that will not work is express lane voting for a lot of reasons. One of which is, it doesn’t make sense. I suspect that’s why no jurisdiction that I know has done it. If % of people have an I.D. and % don’t, the long line will be the one with the I.D.s and if it’s voluntary and evens out over time, as anything would, say, a long line for Sweet Martha’s cookies at the state fair, if the lines even out over time, then, really, what the proposal is, is an extra line, not an express line. Just an extra line. But I think the real key to unlocking the problem of congestion is, number one, what we’ve already done, with no excuses absentee voting, which I predict over a cycle or two or three will have exactly that effect, as more people vote from the comfort of their home or their kitchen table, there will be less pressure on election day. Second is early voting, true early voting, which will enable people not just on election day, not just on one day, hours a day, one-shot deal, kind of th century, but will, rather, enable people for one-week or two-week period that cast a ballot that counts, that is counted that day, that, too, will alleviate congestion. We’re part of the way there, most of the way there, with no excuses absentee voting, which I’m proud to have worked on for a long time, but we can go that extra step and get there through early voting. Those are the solutions that are tried and true and work in other states. >> Thank you, Mr. Simon. Mr. Severson, do you have any comment? Further comment? >> Yeah. Part of the idea is, go to your grocery store, go to the supermarket. They have express lanes there. The marketplace has already proved this works. And when we’re talking about why do people get bottled up in a particular area, they only have so many election judges and if you put all of those election judges doing same-day registration, all of a sudden you’ve created a choke point. So if there are people standing in line that are willing to use their I.D. card and go up to the other two lines and swipe through, the real issue is, it’s faster, it’s safer, and it’s more secure. >> Okay. Thank you, Mr. Severson. Our next question, what is your position on voting by those living in the community on probation or parole from a felony conviction? Would you support restoring voting rights once the term of incarceration is concluded as our neighbor in North Dakota does? Mr. Bob Odden. >> I assume that what that means is that, you know, once the prison sentence or whatever is over and they’re released to the community, even though they’re on parole, should they have the right to vote. Some states do that. Our constitution says that felons can’t vote. Now, exactly what that means, maybe a judge would have to come up with a meaning. But I guess once they’ve been released into the public, why can’t they vote? And we have all these — we have all these victimless crimes that people, we make it into felonies and they haven’t harmed anybody. I mean, why is that a felony? Why is that even wrong? If they haven’t harmed anybody, they were just doing something that for some reason, for reasons of morality or whatever we think they shouldn’t be doing, but you can’t outlaw everything that you don’t like. What kind of society would that be? We need to do away with victimless crimes and that would do away with a lot of felonies, quite a substantial number. And, so, these people wouldn’t have these records and especially in the communities, minority communities, where they are being arrested for victimless crimes, they wouldn’t be disenfranchised. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Steve Simon. >> I think we should move in the direction of reform in this area. I think it’s a hot topic, a real emerging issue. You know, Minnesota is still in the majority of states that says that you don’t get your right to vote back until your entire felony sentence is done, both the prison part and the so-called on-paper part. But there is a movement to go towards what North Dakota and another dozen or so states have, which is to say that if you’re in prison you can’t vote, but the minute you step out, even if you’re serving the remainder of your sentence on paper, as it’s called, that you can vote and then there are some outlier states that allow for voting always and some outlier states that allow for voting basically never for certain felonies. But I think moving in that direction, there are some exceptions that I think are important to be observed but generally speaking, this is a civil rights issue for so many of us in Minnesota. And I think the question we have to ask ourselves is, is anyone harmed? Is anyone harmed? Is it a public safety issue when someone across the street who served their time in prison is voting? I think that’s the key question. And I think the rest of the nation is moving in this direction and I think Minnesota will as well. The key thing, though, is, it has to have bipartisan support. Many of you know that the last two governors, one Democrat, one Republican, have both said that they will only sign election-related laws, bills into law if they have bipartisan support, so, too, for this law. So I think there will be some negotiations but in the end moving in that general direction is I think what we can expect. >> Thank you, Mr. Steve Simon. Mr. Dan Severson. >> This is the separation of powers issue. This is — I was in the legislature for eight years. We have the ability to make law. We don’t have the ability to change the Constitution. Article VII Section of the Constitution says these people shall not vote and it says felons who have not fulfilled their felony conviction. Whether they’re released or not is not the fact. The fact is that on paper, if they have fulfilled their felony conviction, then they are restored their civil rights. So, for the office of the Secretary of State, it’s a moot point. It goes to the people. You, the people, make that decision. You have the discussion, your legislators have the discussion, you talk about the pros and cons and then the legislature’s put a constitutional amendment before you, the people, and say, we believe that or do not believe that their felony conviction should be set aside once they’re removed from incarceration and they should be restored their civil rights. The Constitution is there for an anchor for us. Not because we feel about something a particular way. They put that there to give us guidance. So, it becomes the will of the people in order to change the Constitution through a constitutional amendment, and I would as Secretary of State do whatever the people of Minnesota wanted me to do in that particular arena. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Mr. Bob Helland. >> I do support the restoration of voting rights. That’s a personal philosophy of mine. It’s something I think a lot of my peers share. I think it’s something that a lot of people in this room may share. I don’t know, I tried this once before, but please do raise your hand and show if you do support reinstating voting rights. I know I certainly do. As Mr. Severson said, it’s exactly that. It’s a constitutional channel that’s going to go through you, the people. It’s going to be the will of the people. So, I’m not going to stand up on a bully pulpit as Secretary of State and demand that this type of legislation gets passed to change our Constitution. It needs to be the voice of the people. And I can facilitate, I can facilitate that discussion. I’m going to be talking to a lot of people about a lot of different things as Secretary of State and I’m sure it’s going to be a question that comes up when I’m visiting colleges or schools or who knows what type of arena I might be in to approach an audience and say, oh, you have a concern that you want to pursue and see get done at the legislature or get see done in your government. It’s the Secretary of State’s job to help people learn how to navigate those processes. Things like using the legislative manual, which for students has been four years out of date. We have not even given our students the best and current up-to-date content. All I can do as Secretary of State is encourage you to be a part of the civic process and let you know the proper channels. Thank you. >> Thank you, Bob Helland. Our next question has to do with rank-choice voting. Rank-choice voting is often discussed as an alternative to our current election system. As Secretary of State, would you support rank-choice voting and efforts to expand local control to enable all Minnesota communities to adopt R.C.V. if they choose to do so? Mr. Bob Helland. >> It’s a great question. I’m very happy to hear we’re talking about R.C.V., rank-choice voting. Other people use I.R.V., instant run-off voting, type of thing. So make sure you understand the terms and the jargon that’s being talked about. I hope you’re kind of familiar with the issue, I don’t have too much time to explain it all. But for me, I feel we need to expand the conversation of rank-choice voting to all levels of government. Representative Simon will talk about the local options that gives municipalities and those candidates an option to run in a rank-choice voting race, but for some reason he’s not interested in having that in his own race for a statewide constitutional office. I think we should have that discussion. Again, separation of powers. I won’t author the legislation and I won’t stand up on a bully pulpit making sure it gets passed. There’s other priority of this office. But rank-choice voting is growing, it’s coming, great work by organizations of Fair Vote, Fair Vote Minnesota. So if you’re not familiar with what rank-choice voting is, please do go out and look online or find one of the candidates afterwards. We can explain it to you. But it is important and we need to talk about — there’s not just one right way to do elections. We do it very well. But rank-choice voting has a lot of possibilities. >> Thank you, Mr. Helland. Mr. Bob Odden. >> I’ve done some reading on it, I have no objection to localities, you know, wanting to do rank-choice voting. If a city wants to do that, I guess that’s fine. It’s purported to help third parties, and then, yet, like in Australia where they’ve been doing it for decades, there are only two parties. There is no third party. Rank-choice voting is supposed to help get rid of the negative ads and in some cases it does and in other cases it doesn’t. Some cases people still go after each other. It’s confusing to voters, they don’t really understand the results sometimes. They keep wondering, how did this person get elected? And — but it doesn’t loan itself to a manual recount. It has to be done by computer. And, unfortunately, computers can be hacked. They can be manipulated, you know, either the software, the programming that it runs on or the program itself. And, you know, who’s maintaining these things. These machines get complicated. And it goes beyond the ability of local people to actually test these machines and certify them and then it has to be done by a special somebody — well, gets appointed by a lobbyist. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Mr. Simon. >> I do believe in choice when it comes to rank-choice voting. And for many years, I’ve carried the legislation that would simply allow cities, just allow them, not command them, but allow cities to experiment with rank-choice voting. Under current law in Minnesota, one class of cities, typically the biggest cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth, they already have authority to implement rank-choice voting if they or their city councils or their people want it without anyone’s permission. But the other cities, which is most cities, they don’t. They have to come on bended knee and beg for special permission and special legislation from the legislature. And that never seemed right to me. Why should Red Wing or Roseville or any other city that wants to try rank-choice voting, which we now know from the Minnesota Supreme Court is constitutional, is within the lines and within the rules, why should they be prevented from at least trying it on the municipal level? It doesn’t seem fair to me. So I’ve offered that legislation, and I would do what I can as Secretary of State to lend a voice to that. I do think it’s the job of the Secretary of State, by the way, to be a leader when it comes to election policy. And although there always should be respect for separation of powers, the Secretary of State has never asked for and received a vote, that separation of powers enough, but I think the Secretary of State should not shrink away from advocating for solutions that are best and for helping the legislature to get to yes and to get to bipartisan solutions, this is one of those. So more choice for more communities at the municipal level to experiment with rank-choice voting. Let’s not do command and control politics from St. Paul. Communities know what’s best for themselves. >> Thank you, Steve Simon. Mr. Dan Severson. >> It’s good to hear Representative Simon say he’s for choice on voting here. I think he was moving towards my direction on express lane voting. The deal with the rank-choice voting I think has been experimented with in Minneapolis, and I think those are some good proving grounds in which we can discern whether it’s going to be effective or not and expensive. And I think the expenses that are being incurred are far and away larger than they had anticipated. It tends to be somewhat confusing. But I tend to agree with my colleagues here in that local control is the most important because government that is responsive is local government. And, so, if the individuals that are facilitating this or that are actually going through the process of rank-choice voting feel that it’s a fair way in which to elect their officials, you’ll hear within a couple of election cycles whether they’re thinking the results are rigged or whether they’re really actually legitimate. So, I’m an avid supporter of local control because I believe that government is best run when it’s attune to the local ears of its constituency. I would have some issues with it at the legislative level and I think there may be some drawbacks in that process because for the most part you want to have a majority that are electing that representative of the voice of that district into that particular office and those would be things to look at. >> Okay. Thank you, Mr. Severson. One other question here has to do with another program administered by the Secretary of State. Over , Minnesotans participate in the state’s Safe at Home address confidentiality program. As Secretary of State, how would you strengthen Safe at Home program and ensure the continued success and improvement of the program? Mr. Dan Severson. >> Well, I think the program is working all right. I think we need to beef up its security aspects in terms of ensuring that the information that is held by the Secretary of State office is secure. You know, we’ve had the Home Depot, the Target information invasion that’s taken place, and we need to ensure that the information is secure through that process updating that. One of the other things I’d like to see as well is more participation from the community in terms of some of the support services from the police, fire, some of these other organizations where they would come together and create a support network for this particular program to ensure that the privacy of not just abused men and women who have been in this, but judges and other people who are subject to this program have the ability to maintain their confidentiality through the Secretary of State’s office. >> Thank you, Dan Severson. Mr. Steve Simon. >> Well, I’ve been proud to author a number of bills that are now law to preserve and protect and strengthen the Safe at Home program. That program, by the way, provides address anonymity or confidentiality for victims of domestic violence. It’s tough to get into. Only those who are truly, you know, under threat of bodily harm or worse are allowed in the program. And it essentially means that the Secretary of State’s office acts, among other things, as kind of the mailbox for folks, whether it’s voting or magazine subscriptions or utility bills, they’re the screen, they’re the filter. And it’s protected and probably saved many lives. So I introduced the legislation, it’s now law, that would automatically enroll the minor children of domestic abuse victims in the program so they wouldn’t have to separately petition. But going forward, I think there are a number of ways that we can strengthen the program. One is, is just looking at the eligibility criteria. Simple things, like in greater Minnesota, in rural areas, sometimes there’s a problem with someone who has suffered domestic abuse getting to the person, to the counselor or the physician or others who can properly certify that they are under fear of bodily harm or worse and, so, allowing easier ways, perhaps a telephone interview or perhaps other ways of observation to clear the process so that they can get enrolled in the program and save themselves and their family. That’s one thing that I know others have been discussing with great seriousness over the years and I think we ought to take a look at that. The bottom line is, we’ve got to protect the participants, protect the women in the program. It’s a good thing. Minnesota was a leader. >> Thank you, Steve Simon. Bob Helland. >> I try to be as optimistic as possible in thinking about where this government and where this state’s going, but when I hear that number of , individuals, unfortunately, that seems low to me. I think there’s a lot of people out there that could use the benefits of these programs. Steve did a great job of describing what it does. Had some great points on how it can be improved in enrollment. Dan had great points on technology. So, I think the biggest thing and the biggest role of the Secretary of State right now is to make sure that this is a well-known program. In all the solutions I really push they come down to three components. The people in the office and they need to be trusted, they need to be highly trained because they’re in a very secure environment using secure technology, that technology needs to be very secure and, again, that’s kind of a hallmark of my experience, and we also need to make sure our partnerships are effective. I think we probably have effective partnerships with local law enforcement and those types of things, but I know a lot of people in social work programs or that work in the social work area or work with people in the juvenile justice system, in child welfare system, and everyone I’ve talked to about the Safe at Home program has never heard of it. And that’s really the biggest thing that the Secretary of State needs to do is make sure that people are aware of this program, the benefits that it provides, the protection it provides. I do believe it does save lives. And we need to make sure, just like voting, everyone who’s eligible to vote, we need to make sure that everyone who’s eligible for this protection and if we need to expand that, that’s something we should push at the legislature. >> Thank you, Mr. Helland. Mr. Bob Odden. >> I agree with a lot of what I’ve been hearing. But I always have an additional question in my own mind. When people get into trouble, the relationship doesn’t turn out the way they wanted it to, and they get out of it and hopefully they get into the program if they need it. But, you know, you’re going to want to form another relationship at some point. And are they getting any counseling or whatever on how to make better choices? People have a tendency to pick up the same type of relationship that they had previously. Not knowing — they don’t know exactly maybe why they’re attracted to a certain person or whatever. And this requires people — counseling, be helped — go through this thought process. So I wonder, you know, how many people that are in the program. I know the , , if they’ve had kind of, so to speak, a repeat problem, which would be obviously terrible. So, you know, if I was going to look into the program, I mean, that’s one definite thing that I would want to check into. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. That had to be our last question. We will now move to closing remarks. And we will begin with Mr. Dan Severson. >> Well, I want to thank you so much for being here tonight, hearing the debate and the greatest thing that I would want to communicate tonight is, please go out and vote. Exercise your right to vote. It’s been paid with for an enormous — with an enormous price. And we are one of those countries where people still, for the large part, trust that our system is working and that it is responding to the voice of the people. It’s been my honor to travel across the state with my wife and meet with different groups and talk about the — just the imagination and the innovation that Minnesota fosters. And it is that imagination and innovation that brought Medtronics and M and created businesses in this state that have become world players. And, so, part of that innovative and the excellence that is Minnesota is brought out in ideas and ideas are the thing that dreamers do. And dreamers have the ability to become visionaries and visionaries leaders. And, so, part of our process tonight has been, let’s talk about some new ideas, let’s talk about where Minnesota can go. And it’s been my honor to talk with you tonight, to be part of that process, and I’m hoping that as you go out and you vote, you encourage others next to you to do the same. Because as we voice our opinion, the goal is that the people that we elect would have the best of Minnesota at heart in this process. I am asking for your vote, obviously, but I even more than that ask that you would honor our patriots, those who have gone before us, by going out and doing your civic duty, whether you vote for me or not. It is America. It is why we are the greatest country in the world. >> Thank you, Mr. Severson. Mr. Bob Odden. >> I guess I want to start out by thanking the sponsors of the debate. It’s rare for somebody in the minor party to be allowed in a debate with major-party players. First of all, what do I bring to the Secretary of State’s office? I know how to increase voter participation with meaningful and believable elections, for meaningful elections, for instance, eliminate the control of elections by Democrats and Republicans. This is equivalent of having the fox watching the hen house. This would provide more choice on the ballot, which means more voters and definitely more excitement. The mainstream media, if they won’t provide coverage for other parties, well, then voters need to be directed to providers that will. Finally, make sure that judges are no longer appointed. We don’t really elect our judges in this state. Address potential fraud to make elections believable. Start by determining voter eligibility prior to the person voting. We really need to know who’s voting. Reduce the ability of the major parties to abuse our frail elderly and disabled voters and voter fraud schemes. Set up election processes so smaller parties can compete as effectively as possible. Keep our election procedures within the grasp of local citizens and out of the hands of lobbyists. Finally, I’ll work with citizens and organizations that make accusations of voter fraud until they are resolved. I will not pretend they don’t exist. Ideally, everyone looking at the ballot needs to understand what they’re doing and who they are voting for. It should be one of the greatest endeavors of the Secretary of State’s office to help facilitate that outcome regardless of party politics. My name’s Bob Odden and you people asked for a third-party candidate, well, here I am. In order to, you know, get different results, you have to vote differently. So, remember me when you go to vote on November th. >> Thank you, Mr. Odden. Mr. Bob Helland. >> It’s been a strange journey getting here, being an employee of the State for five years and seeing a problem, perceiving these systems. I’ve always been a systems thinker, thinking about the — how things work, tinkering around. But I’m a different guy. You haven’t seen me up here on the stage before. I’m trying to come at you completely unscripted. I know in my heart what my beliefs are. I know in my mind what my experience is. I read the law. And it’s important for me to come out here and connect with you in an authentic way. I don’t want you to vote for me on any polished talking points or anything like that. I want you to really understand what the office of Secretary of State does. And I would challenge your imaginations to think, what if there were no parties? Who is the best candidate in the race for Secretary of State? I do agree with Mr. Simon on many areas, Safe at Home and the elections, he’s done great work in our legislature and I like to take these opportunities to thank him for improving our election systems in the proper role of the legislature. I think we’re not doing as well on the business services side, and I will continue to impress that upon you because that’s my experience, and that’s the real deficiency I see in state government, is people aren’t concerned about that one day in November, they’re concerned about their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their children and the qualities of education that they’re getting and that they have a government that’s responsive and it’s efficient with how it provides services and it provides them in an equal way to all Minnesotans. So, that’s me, speaking from my heart, just a guy up here with long hair and a beard, years old, saying, what if there were no parties? The last thing I’d leave you with is — you already stole my dreamer thunder, Dan. But I like to say, for those who say that a vote for Bob Helland is a wasted vote, you may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. And I think we know that. Join me on election day, get out to the polls and vote. Bob Helland, Independence party, thank you so much. >> Thank you, Bob Helland. And we’ll now hear from Mr. Steve Simon. >> Well, I too, want to thank Augsburg, I want to thank the Sabo Center, I want to thank Congressman Sabo for being here. I got my start, in part, through him. I was his summer of district office intern. So, it’s great to have him here and be in his presence. [ Applause ] I want to be a Secretary of State for all Minnesotans. Now, anyone can say that. And talk is cheap. Particularly at election time. But I hope people will look at my demonstrated record of success and of bringing everyone to the table. That means being honest, that means being fair, that means inspiring the trust and confidence of people who don’t agree with you, maybe especially the people who don’t agree with you or don’t vote for you, and I think I have that and I’ve demonstrated that. And it also means opening the doors of opportunity for voting and registration wide open for eligible voters and not slamming them in people’s faces. I’ve talked a lot about no excuses absentee voting. A project I worked on for seven years and we got done in a bipartisan basis. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. That brings people together, unites us and makes us even better. So, I’ve spent my career doing those things and I think this election really gives us a clear choice, a choice between someone who wants to make voting easier for eligible voters and perhaps one or more candidates that want to make it tougher. Between someone who’s been an honest broker, someone who’s inspired that trust and confidence of people who don’t agree with him or someone who is more of a partisan flame thrower. I think people have to think about that contrast when they think about this office. I’ll leave you with one thing that I saw at a parade in Rochester early this summer. It was a woman who was wearing a T-shirt and the T-shirt said, failure to vote is not an act of rebellion. It’s an act of surrender. Those are very true words. I hope everyone in here exercises their right to vote. I hope no one in this room surrenders their right, a right that so many have fought and bled and died for, and I hope we can all agree on one thing. Let’s vote, either on election day or, as we can now do, before. Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for your time and attention. >> Thank you. [ Applause ] These are your candidates for the Secretary of State for the state of Minnesota. Thank you all for your attention at this debate. And thank you to all of the candidates. I know from personal experience that when you run for public office, you’re putting yourself out there for public approval. And we thank you very much. It’s hard work. And thank you for putting your name forward. For those in the audience, there are tables in the lobby with candidate information for you to pick up. We thank the audience for your questions and your interest. Voting information can be gotten by looking at the Secretary of State’s office at MNvotes.org. We thank Augsburg College and President Paul Pribbenow for their partnership in bringing voter education to Minnesota voters. And thank you to all of our partnering organizations and all the volunteers and staff who have helped make this program work. Thank you to all of you. And, remember, after everybody else has given their voting pitch, let me give my own. Remember that Democracy is not a spectator sport. And in the words of CBS journalist Bob Schieffer, go vote, it makes you feel big and strong. Thank you and good night. [ Applause ] Thank you to MAPE for sponsoring our debate coverage. Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage Support this story and all the stories from The Uptake. Donate.