MinnPost columnist Doug Grow reports in Fraud! Suppression! Aspersions! Dueling press conferences wake up a sleepy secretary of state race:
Initially, Severson had planned to devote his news event to the subject of voter participation among members of the military. Among other things, Severson contends that President Barack Obama’s administration, current secretary of state Mark Ritchie and DFL secretary of state candidate Rep. Steve Simon have all participated in efforts to suppress voting by members of the military.
That's fascinating--and like so much from Severson, worth scrutiny.
Mark Ritchie and military voters
Did Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie try to suppress the military vote? Not according to the Military Voter Protection Project, which selected Minnesota as one of Fifteen States Recognized for Extraordinary Efforts to Protect Military Voters in 2012.
The Military Voter Protect Project, led by Eric Eversole, was funded by the Legacy Foundation, which Tom Philpott described in Stars and Stripes as:
. . . an Iowa-based “educational” organization, begun in 2009, to “advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited and accountable government” through “independent, non-partisan research on public policy matters and initiatives,” its website explains. Eversole said MVPP is nonpartisan but does not disclose its donors.
The Legacy Foundation website says it does not support or endorse candidates. News reports say it has backed right-wing causes including Arizona’s controversial immigration law. It also brought a lawsuit last year against a Democratic-led congressional redistricting plan in Maryland.
Bruce Rastetter, a wealthy GOP donor and former business partner of the billionaire Koch brothers, who back conservative causes and candidates, is a former chairman of foundation, the Baltimore Sun reported last year.
Philpott also reported that Eversole "worked absentee voter issues for John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the senator’s presidential bid in 2008."
What did Eversole and the MVPP say about Minnesota's efforts for military voters in 2012? According to the Heroes Vote Initative page for All-Star State Minnesota:
. . .Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has been a stalwart supporter of military voters and has helped to remove numerous bureaucratic hurdles in the military and overseas absentee balloting process. In particular, his office partnered with the Overseas Vote Foundation to create an easy-to-use, online service for military and overseas voters to assist them with their voter questions and facilitate their requests for absentee ballots. He also has worked with the legislature to allow email delivery of absentee ballots and moved the primary to allow sufficient time for military ballots to be received and returned.
Read the rest on the website.
Obama and military voters
As for Obama? Philpott reported in Military voters can be rope in political tugs-of-war:
Eversole said MVPP has “worked at all times to make this a non-partisan issue. I have repeatedly made clear that neither President Obama nor his administration is to blame” for a decline in absentee votes.
He said the FVAP still “failed to create a more systematic basis for allowing military voters to register and request ballots” by not using base voting offices as part of the check in and check out process, in the same way many states use vehicle registration offices to accommodate voter registration.
Left-leaning group Media Matters also looked at the notions that the president was suppressing the vote in Fox Baselessly Suggests Obama May Be Attempting To Disenfranchise Military Voters, citing an earlier statement by Eversole:
[T]here is little reason to believe the Pentagon's reported problems with voter assistance reflect partisan maneuvering, said Eric Eversole, executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project.
"The military voting issue has existed long before the current administration. I simply don't see any politics at play," Eversole said. [Marine Corps. Times, 9/5/12]
Fact Check.org dismissed a related claim in Obama Not Trying to Curb Military Early Voting.
Steve Simon and military voters
Grow reports that Severson is also claiming that mild-mannered, bipartisan election law accord wrangler Steve Simon also plots against the troops.
This is laughable, coming from a man who never introduced a bill to improve military voting while he himself served in the Minnesota State Legislature, as Bluestem first noted on August 27, 2014 in Dan Severson's claims about counting military ballots don't seem to be supported by facts:
Looking through Severson's career as a legislator, we have found a number of veteran and military-friendly bills, as might be expected from a proud veteran, but none that specifically dealt with making it easier for active military members to vote. His zeal about this issue appears to be late blooming.
Apparently DFL Chair Martin looked up the same public record, judging from Grow's report.
Simon, on the other hand, has kept military voters in mind while writing election law. We noted back in the August post that MVPP had praised Minnesota for moving its primary from September to August to accommodate military voters. The author of the bill?:
In the Minnesota House, Steve Simon, the endorsed DFL candidate for Secretary of State, was the author of HF2552, the companion to the Senate bill that moved Minnesota's primary from September to August; Simon also authored this session's bill that created online legislation.
Minnesota Public Radios' Tim Pugmire reports in Severson and Simon clash over new voting rules:
Severson is wrong about the changes to absentee voting rules, Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, said.
“Anyone who says that members of the military are somehow left out of the new no-excuses absentee voting law either has a total ignorance of the law or is trying to accomplish some other aim,” Simon said. “The point is they absolutely are included.”
In addition, lawmakers authorized a new online voter registration system this year that allows military personal to more easily apply for absentee ballots.
Bill Sorem's Video from The Uptake
Here's The Uptake's video of the dueling press conferences:
The text below the video summarizes the content:
"When Dan Severson makes baseless allegations, we're going to respond in kind," said Ken Martin, DFL State Chair, after part one of Dan Severson GOP endorsed candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State press conference, October 14, 2014, to announce his initiative, if elected, to allow military personnel to vote on-line using their military ID. He accused the current Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie and the Dayton administration of systematically discriminating against overseas military personnel and thus severely reducing the number allowed to vote. He further claimed that the new "no-excuse" absentee ballot legislation which allows any registered voter to absentee vote without an excuse specifically excludes military personnel from this privilege, requiring them to provide an excuse. He further said that the current process
According to David Maeda, Minnetonka City Clerk and supervisor of city elections there is no requirement for military personnel to provide and excuse for an absentee ballot, they are covered by the same law as current residents. Further, the city is allowed to email an email application for an absentee ballot which can be emailed back. The county is permitted to email a ballot with appropriate instructions. The completed ballot must be returned by mail.
Severson also raided the issue of extensive voter fraud in past Minnesota elections.
Ken Martin, DFL State chairman, claimed that Severson has built a campaign around suppressing voting to solve unfounded election corruption allegations. Martin claimed the Serverson has said he wants to make voting as easy as possible and at the same time has said he doesn't support non-excuse absentee balloting or same day registration.
Severson stood up after Martin had finished and extended his previous remarks about voter fraud.
Bluestem has been looking into Severson's claims and background since August, some of which appear below.
Screenshot: Minnesota was named an All-Star State by the Heroes Vote Project in 2012.
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