Election Law @ Moritz

2006 Election Overview

2006 Elections Overview

Overview of Minnesota Voting Process in November, 2006

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Introduction

The November 2006 Minnesota elections were largely successful.  Minnesota had the nation’s highest voter turnout rates this cycle with approximately sixty percent of eligible voters participating in the election.  State voter turnout apparently led nation, Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 9, 2006.  The Minnesota election was also relatively free of technology failures, long lines and other problems experienced by other states.

Technology successes and failures

The November, 2006, election marked the first time Minnesota used its mandatory statewide optical scan computer voting system in a general election.  Minnesota officials aren’t fretting about new voting technology, Star Tribune, October 31, 2006.  Some glitches were reported, but they appear to be isolated incidents rather than systemic failures.

The optical scanners used in Centerville, Minnesota, were reported to count votes regardless of whether the voter filled in the oval on the ballot with check marks, X’s, or scribbles.  Recount yields votes, quirks, St. Paul Pioneer Pres, November 15, 2006.  The scanners also counted nearly all pen marks, including marks made when voters rested their pens on the ballots for a moment.  However, subsequent audits of the count showed that the machines accurately reflected voters’ intent.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that a voting machine in St. Paul would not allow voters to insert their completed ballots.   A few easy calls, but otherwise Minnesotans make election hard to judge, November 7, 2006.  Election judges had to open the machine and instruct the voters to insert their ballots manually.

Ballot supply and counting problems

One precinct in Roseville predicted it would run out of ballots, and attempted to obtain more.  A few easy calls, but otherwise Minnesotans make election hard to judge, St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 7, 2006.  News accounts did not state whether the predicted shortage created actual delays.

Recounts

Recounts conducted in two state assembly races failed to significantly change the final count.  Floberg, Yost survive recount, St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 28, 2006.   Statewide, only a few elections were close enough to enable candidates to request a recount.  Recounts possible in close elections, St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 8, 2006.

Long lines

No news accounts were found reporting long lines at Minnesota polling places.

Ballot confusion

A significant number of voters failed to vote in a city council race and other municipal races in Centerville.  Recount yields votes, quirks, St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 16, 2006.

Voter ID confusion

Minnesota does not have a voter ID law, but the governor has proposed to adopt such a law for future elections.  Gov. Pawlenty pushes for voter IDs, St. Paul Legal Ledger, October 2, 2006.

Bad faith activity

No reports of bad faith activity were found.

Updated voting laws

Minnesota recently passed a law that requires a manual audit of ballots cast in randomly selected precincts in every county.  M.S.A. 206.89; Keeping an eye on the machines that count Minnesotans’ votes, St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 24, 2006.  If the discrepancy between the manual and machine counts is greater than one half of one percent, a hand count of additional precincts is required.  If that count does not bring the discrepancy within the acceptable range, a countywide audit must be performed.  If countywide audits “clearly” show that over ten percent of ballots cast for an office came from counties where “an error in vote counting has occurred,” a manual recount of all ballots cast for the relevant office must occur.  The law applies only to U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial races.  No news accounts were found stating the result of any such audits

Minneapolis adopted an “instant runoff voting” law that will allow voters to vote for not only their first-choice candidates, but also their second- and third-choice candidates.  Much work ahead for instant-runoff voting, Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 15, 2006.  If the voters’ first- or second-choice candidate is not elected, officials will count the vote for their second- or third-choice candidate, respectively.  This system is designed to require that officials be elected by a majority of the population, rather than merely a plurality, but is not expected to go into practice until 2009.