Jean Sanford of Minnesota Majority
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Majority, the group promoting the Voter Photo ID amendment, has laid claim to a $1,000 reward for finding an actual case of voter impersonation in the state.
The ACLU of Minnesota offered the bounty February 13 to demonstrate how extremely rare it is for someone to pose as another voter. The reward was offered to anyone who could find a charge, indictment or conviction for that type of fraud in the past 10 years in Minnesota.
"We're here today to claim the ACLU's $1,000 reward for proof of a charge of voter impersonation," Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority told reporters who gathered for a press conference Tuesday in the State Office Building.
As proof he offered a 2010 Anoka County case filed against Barbara Ann Nyhammer of Andover. She was charged with signing an absentee ballot on behalf of her college-age daughter in the 2008 general election.
Nyhammer's daughter also voted in person in Mankato in the same election, initially prompting authorities to suspect she had intentionally voted twice. But Anoka County prosecutors eventually focused on the mother's actions.
"I went down to the Anoka County Courthouse, reviewed the file, and sure enough this was a clear cut case of voter impersonation that was charged," McGrath said.
Nyhammer, who is a faith based mental health therapist, told the court she had no idea her daughter was going to register and vote in Mankato. Nyhammer also said she misunderstood the absentee ballot instructions at the time, and didn't realize she couldn't sign for her daughter.
She entered an Alford plea in August of 2011, and agreed to pay $200 in attorneys fees. As part of a stayed adjudication arrangement, District Judge Jenny Walker Jasper ruled that the charge will disappear from Nyhammer's otherwise spotless court record.
The ACLU's Chuck Samuelson said he would review the Nyhammer case, to see if it qualified as a bonafide example of voter impersonation.
"We'll take a look at it and if Dan's right we'll be happy to give him $1,000 on April 5th," Samuelson told reporters.
"We'll have a press conference and give him a check. You'll have to cash it to get the cash, because I don't carry that kind of cash around the State Capitol."
Samuelson's group may end up $1,000 poorer, but he used the opportunity to make a point at how rare such cases are. He noted that 2.9 million Minnesotans voted in the 2008 election.
He noted that virtually all of the cases of voter fraud arising from Minnesota Majority's exhaustive research has involved released felons who voted before their rights had been fully restored.
"Our elections are significantly purer than Ivory Snow soap in Minnesota," Samuelson remarked. "And yet there are 200,000 people who currently are lawful voters who will not be able to take part in an election if this amendment becomes part of our Constitution."
McGrath said he found the case in an Andover newspaper during a web search of voter fraud prosecutions. He contends that most voter impersonation cases go undetected, on the theory that some voters create fictitious identities with false addresses.
"You can't know for sure who actually cast the ballot when we allow names to be made up on the spot on Election Day," McGrath opined.
The amendment would do away with Minnesota's tradition of allowing neighbors and friends to vouch for those who want to register on Election Day but haven't updated their drivers licenses to reflect a current address.
That's one of the reasons that opponents fear the amendment will have the consequence of disenfranchising thousands of voters who typically could cast a legal ballot.
College students, elderly and highly mobile low income persons are among those most likely to carry outdated photo ID. Those voters would be required to go the a Driver & Vehicle Services office before going to the polls to buy an new ID indicating their current addresses.
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