Voters should expect privacy at polls

10:19 PM, Nov 5, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota voters can expect privacy at their polling places on Election Day, but they'll also be watched by members of nonpartisan groups with varying agendas.

Volunteers with Election Protection, a nonpartisan group dedicated to making sure people can freely exercise the right to vote, will fan out across the state.

"Most of the calls we get are from people who need more information about where to vote and what documents they need in order to register on Election Day," Jonathan Van Horn, an attorney volunteering for Election Protection told KARE.

"But from time to time we do get calls from people who feel they've been intimidated," Van Horn explained.

"For instance, a black van with a picture of an eye that said 'Voter Fraud We're Watching You.' We had voters report that into our hotline and into our field volunteers."

Poll observers are not allowed to disrupt the voting process and it's a crime to actively intimidate a voter. The same goes for vote challengers, people designated by the political parties, to stand inside the polling place and watch voters and election judges.

"Any interaction between a challenger should be with the election judge," Van Horn said. "A challenger should not directly confront the voter, should not have any direct contact with a voter directly."

Those who vote in precincts without any field workers are asked to call the group's hotline 1-866-OUR-VOTE if they have questions or problems.

On the other side of the ledger will be volunteers from Election Integrity Watch, a group affiliated with Minnesota Majority and the Northstar Tea Party Patriots. The group is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to prosecution for organized voter fraud.

Some may be wearing Election Integrity buttons that feature eyeballs.  The group's website asks volunteer poll watchers to look for signs of possible voter fraud, including buses arriving at polling places, multiple voters being vouched for by one person and persons being told how to vote by their assistants.

Walter Hudson, the group's spokesperson, was not available for interviews on Monday. On the website volunteers are reminded not to disrupt polling places or approach voters.

And, again, both those outside the polling place and party-appointed challengers inside the polling place are barred from confronting voters about their eligibility.

"If they're going to make a challenge it can't just be because of the way the person looks or something like that," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told KARE.

"They have to have personal knowledge that this person is ineligible, and they put that in writing."

Ken Martin, DFL state chair, said actual vote challengers must have documents signed by the party chair. In others, not just anyone can show up at the polls in Minnesota and claim to be a vote challenger.

And even if they attempt to challenge a voter, they're not supposed to create a scene. 

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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