GOP’s War on Voting, Minnesota Edition: The Twelve Ways of ALEC’s Kiffmeyer to Disenfranchise Us
I was planning to wait until this weekend to discuss the State Rep from ALEC’s Mary Kiffmeyer and her strange war on Native Americans and their defenders, but I decided to take advantage of what Jon Walker had to say about the Virginia front in the GOP’s War on Voting, and of a document that’s circulating through the local online media, and which I received through the e-mail transom.
This document summarizes twelve specific actions taken by Mary Kiffmeyer during her time as Minnesota’s Secretary of State (1998 to 2006) that put the integrity of voting in Minnesota at risk during that time. Here they are, in order:
#1 was her rushed and slapdash adoption of the Help America Vote Act — 41 other secretaries of state asked for and got delays on implementing HAVA until after 2004, but Kiffmeyer, over strong and sustained protests, went ahead with the implementation, generating criticism from Minnesota Republicans as well as Democrats that she was deliberately botching the implementation in such a way as to make it harder for persons to vote.
#2 concerned the confusing forms Kiffmeyer had designed, purportedly to comply with HAVA; Minnesota’s two most populous counties, Hennepin and Ramsey, rejected them in favor of existing federal forms when it was time to gear up for the 2004 elections. Kiffmeyer asked the Department of Justice to investigate, falsely claiming the forms were illegal, and even the Bush DoJ was compelled to rule against her.
#3 was Kiffmeyer’s decision to remove Independence Party candidates from the 2004 general election ballot because their candidates hadn’t received 10% of the votes in the primary election. She based this decision on a rarely-used law from the 1930s disqualifying parties not getting 10% of their votes received in the “last election,” a rule she hadn’t enforced up to that point.
#4 is especially sleazy: She actually tried to keep Hennepin County’s absentee voters who had voted for Paul Wellstone before his tragic death in October of 2002 from being able to re-cast their ballots for a living candidate. Kiffy decreed those absentee-ballot-voter re-votes to be invalid, but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against Kiffmeyer, allowing absentee voters to revote.
#5 is both sleazy and hilarious, in that specially evil Kiffy sort of way. In 2004, Kiffmeyer, without announcing this to the public, recruited and “deputized” thirty-odd “Election Observers” from relatives and from friends of her staff, and from the archconservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota’s e-mail subscribers’ list. Several non-conservative groups, including the local branches of Americans Coming Together and the AFL-CIO, got wind of what she was doing and sent representatives to her election observer training session; they were told that they could watch, but neither participate in the training, nor serve as election observers.
#6 This one’s a real hoot. In late September 2004, Secretary of State Kiffmeyer wrongly told multiple liberal grassroots groups that the SoS office didn’t have voter registration cards to give out, and said they “hopefully” would have more cards by Oct. 1. This created a delay in distributing cards to the groups. Kiffy’s SoS office later blamed “staff error” for misinformation. Uh-huh.
#7 was her attempt to stop a voter registration effort by the local alternative weekly paper City Pages in 2004. City Pages held a sweepstakes at the State Fair along with a separate voter registration drive. Kiffmeyer, talking out her butt as usual, warned City Pages that they “may be in violation of federal law” if they didn’t stop the drive. City Pages told Kiffy to pound salt, and held the drive — which of course was not only not a violation of law, but if it had been, it would have been federal law that was violated, not state law. In other words, it wasn’t under Kiffmeyer’s jurisdiction in any event.
8. Thousands of voters in the 2004 election almost couldn’t vote because of her messed-up implementation of her new “Exact Match” rule for IDs. Kiffmeyer had ruled that voters must show a valid ID that “exactly matched” information on Secretary of State’s registered voter information forms in terms of name, driver’s license number, and birth date, even though state databases themselves didn’t often match up exactly. The “exact match” rule was overturned in court in the summer of 2004. (Notice that she seems to have made a habit of screwing up and needlessly reinventing procedures that worked just fine under her predecessors? Yeah, me too. Gosh, it’s almost as if she intended for things to be messed up.)
9. Kiffy’s office became notorious for sending out inaccurate and/or confusing forms and notices. One instance involved inaccurate “Important Voter Registration Information” notices sent to more than 200 motor vehicle offices in mid-October of 2004. The notices stated that “It is too late to register for the November 2, 2004, General Election.” Kiffmeyer denied her Office sent them, yet the Director of Driver and Vehicle Services said they came from the Secretary of State’s Office — her office. Most DVS offices ignored the inaccurate notices, as most DVS personnel know full well that Minnesotans can register with their county or at polling places on election day; only the deadline for voter pre-registration had passed.
10. Kiffmeyer really hates it when college kids vote — they might vote for Democrats, you know. On Election Day in 2006, an election judge in Minneapolis rejected election-day registration from University of Minnesota students using utility bills. Kiffy not only supported that election judge’s ruling, but she enacted that day—Election Day—a rule disallowing use of utility bills by University of Minnesota students to prove residency. The Hennepin County court overturned Secretary Kiffmeyer’s ruling that day as violating the same-day registration law.
11. Kiffmeyer hates it even more when Native Americans vote. She once ruled that tribal ID cards used for voting registration were allowable only for residents of their tribe’s reservations. The courts ruled that tribal ID cards were valid for voting registration regardless of where the tribe member resided. Legislation was passed in 2005 to specify that rule in law. (By the way, tribal ID cards are perfectly acceptable forms of ID according to the Federal “Real ID” act that Republicans seemingly find so ornerous.)
12. Kiffy doesn’t even want victims of domestic abuse or shut-ins to vote. In 2005 “Agent delivery” of ballots, allowing voters to designate someone as their “agent” to get and return voting ballots for them, had been extended to residents of domestic-abuse shelters and group homes by the Legislature. The Secretary of State’s Office did not implement that extension. Instead, Kiffmeyer blamed the DFL-majority Senate for a rule change that she claimed caused the delay.