Video Replay: Final MN Secretary Of State Debate Before Election

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Steve Simon (DFL), Dan Severson (R), Bob Helland (I), and Bob Odden (L)

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.


>> Good evening, everyone.

I’m Paul Pribbenow, the president here at Augsburg


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


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.


[ 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


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


Again, thank you all for attending tonight.

We look forward to a great night of voter


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

And now I will hand it over to her to get things


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


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


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


Mr. Bob Odden, representing the Libertarian

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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,, 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


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


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


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


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


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


Just as I referenced with my son, watching his

vote sitting on the tarmac out there, it’s not

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


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


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


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


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


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


Minnesota already leads the nation in voter


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


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


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


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


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


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


I don’t necessarily think it will marginalize

third parties.

Again, we need to get them involved in other ways.


>> 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


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


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


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,

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,


>> 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


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


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


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


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

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


>> 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


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


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


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


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


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?


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


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


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


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


>> 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


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


We have the ability to make law.

We don’t have the ability to change the


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


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


It needs to be the voice of the people.

And I can facilitate, I can facilitate that


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


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


And — but it doesn’t loan itself to a manual


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


>> 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


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


We don’t really elect our judges in this state.

Address potential fraud to make elections


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

>> 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


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


Bob Helland, Independence party, thank you so


>> 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


[ Applause ]

I want to be a Secretary of State for all


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


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


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


It’s an act of surrender.

Those are very true words.

I hope everyone in here exercises their right to


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


We thank the audience for your questions and your


Voting information can be gotten by looking at the

Secretary of State’s office at

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 MAPE for sponsoring our debate coverage.

Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage

Thank you to AFSCME Council 5 for sponsoring our debate coverage

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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