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by Steve Timmer
Jul 6, 2014, 4:30 PM

Vote where you really live, my friends

A lot of invective has been directed at the Rep. Phyllis Kahn campaign, and its attorney, Brian Rice, especially, over a petition filed with election authorities in the City of Minneapolis over some 140 voter registrations that list 419 Cedar Avenue South as the voter’s residence address, when they obviously don’t live there. I’ve written about it before, unclear at the time (and said so) how many of those 140 had listed the address as as a residence or as a “post office box,” which you can do if mail cannot be delivered to your physical residence. The voter registration form requires a P.O. box in that case.

For those of you just getting up to speed, in a nutshell, it came to the attention of the Kahn campaign, on the eve of early voting in the primary election between Rep. Kahn and Mohamud Noor (House District 60B), that many voters had registered at an address where no one lives; you are supposed to register to vote, and vote, where you, um, live. The campaign’s petition for an investigation was filed right away. There is a hearing on Mr. Rice’s petition this coming week, on the 10th, I believe.

The Cedar Mailbox Center, as the original reporting from KSTP and the Strib (linked in my earlier story) says, quoting employees of the Center, serves as a mailing address for many Somali patrons from “across the state.” Note that you can’t really have a “P.O. box” there, because it isn’t a post office. That’s why it’s called a “mail center,” I suppose.

Anyway, with all the dark muttering and intimation of “partisan bias” and worse, I called Brian Rice just before the 4th holiday.

I asked Brian, how many of the “140” had 419 Cedar Avenue South listed as the registrant’s residence address? “All of ’em,” he replied.

That means — and it’s me speaking now, not Brian Rice — that every one of those registrations is invalid. They’re not invalid merely because somebody moved away and hasn’t re-registered with his or her new residence address; they were invalid the day they were made. That would make anybody suspicious about some kind of nefarious and coordinated activity, which I hasten to add, Mr. Noor denies.

It’s been learned since that some of these registrations go as far back as 2008, but a dozen or more were made in 2014. And there are at least a few registrants who voted in the current primary from these registrations since the balloting began a week ago.

The anger directed at Brian Rice is misplaced. By calling this situation to the attention of election officials in Minneapolis immediately upon discovering it, he prevented it from becoming an even bigger problem later, after more registrants from that address voted. As it stands now, voters who used that address for registration may be able to re-register and vote, although they may have some explaining to do ultimately.

And what would the Brian Rice detractors have had him do? Sweep the whole thing under the rug?

Personally, I think that ire is better directed at the people who registered this way. Registration forms are available in English, Somali, and several other languages. The forms are abundantly clear that you must register where you live. If you move, you re-register, at the polls if necessary. Excuses like Oh, they’re immigrants! and They’re minority voters! and They move a lot! and There must be intent for voter fraud! don’t wash with me.

There were a helluva lot of people who spent a helluva lot of time, and also spent a helluva lot of money, to defeat the photo voter ID constitutional referendum in 2012. A photo ID doesn’t prove residence, either, of course, because people move, but people like Sen. Scott Newman (GOP AG candidate), and Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority, have already jumped on this as an issue.

Regrettably, because of the carelessness of a bunch of people, we’re going to be right back in the soup.

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