MN Voter Restriction Author Has History Of Voter Suppression

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Click on Image to watch interview about Representative Mary Kiffmeyer

Click on Image to watch interview about Representative Mary Kiffmeyer

The author of Minnesota’s proposed voter restriction constitutional amendment, Representative Mary Kiffmeyer, is “motivated to stop people from voting” and has a history of making voting difficult in the state, according to Minnesota election and political attorney Christian Sande.

Sande says he represented some of Minnesota’s Indian tribes in 2006 after then-Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer sought to disallow tribal IDs when members registered to vote. He also ran for the DFL endorsement to oppose her in 2006 – but eventually endorsed fellow Democrat Mark Ritchie, who defeated Kiffmeyer in the general election.

“I can only judge Representative Kiffmeyer by her actions. And, throughout the entire time, the eight years she was secretary of state, I don’t think she did anything to make it easier for people to vote,” said Sande. He ticked off a list of things she could have done. “Cutting down on travel time between someone’s residence and their precinct. Longer polling hours. Increasing use of technology.” Instead of doing any of them, Sande says KIffmeyer made it more difficult for people to vote and pointed to several court cases as evidence.

Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer was sued four times from 2000 to 2006 on the eve of an election.

In 2002, she was sued for refusing to send voters new absentee ballots after Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash less than two weeks before the election. Former Vice President Walter Mondale’s name replaced Wellstone’s on the ballot. The Minnesota Supreme Court ordered Kiffmeyer to mail the revised replacement ballots.

In 2004, Kiffmeyer was also ordered by the Minnesota Supreme Court to place Independence Party candidates on the ballot in Candidacy of Independence Party Candidates vs. Kiffmeyer.

Also in 2004, the ACLU and the National Congress of American Indians were among groups that sued Kiffmeyer to compel her to accept tribal IDs as proof of residency and identity when registering to vote on election day. Kiffmeyer argued that Minnesota law prohibited tribal ID cards when the holder did not reside on the reservation. The plaintiffs in this case cited the Help America Vote Act, which allows individuals to present a, “government document that shows the name and address of the voter”.

In 2006, Sande says he helped American Indian tribes again when Kiffmeyer sought to disallow tribal IDs for a second time. This time, she cited a law passed by the Minnesota Legislature that outlined which IDs would be accepted when registering to vote – instead of what was listed in the Help America Vote Act. Kiffmeyer said she would not deviate from Minnesota’s law. Sande says Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum issued a temporary restraining order and signed onto a consent decree ordering her to accept tribal IDs.

Sande said students were also turned away in the 2006 election when they tried to use their utility bills to register on election day. The Hennepin County Court ordered the polls open an extra hour to try to get students to come back who’d been turned away.

“I can only look at those things and I can see this is a person who is motivated by trying to stop people from voting,” said Sande.

Sande also says that the Voter Restriction Amendment will not attack voter fraud as its authors and supporters claim it will.

“Voter impersonation is not what causes voter fraud. There are other reasons behind it. And this photo ID amendment will not attack those issues at all,” he said.

Allison Herrera

Allison Herrera, originally from San Luis Obispo, Calif.,  studied media and Spanish at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., where she earned her bachelor s. Since moving to the Twin Cities, she has been a news producer for KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio, communications coordinator for Twin Cities Public Television's arts series MN Original, and producer for the Association of Minnesota Public and Educational Radios Stations for the series MN90: Minnesota History in 90 Seconds.

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