The Hennepin County Attorney's office has found no evidence of a coordinated effort to improperly register voters using the address of a private mailbox center in Minneapolis.
The preliminary findings come two weeks after the attorney for DFL State Rep. Phyllis Kahn filed a complaint that asked for an investigation into possible voter fraud.
Attorney Brian Rice had alleged that the campaign of Kahn's primary opponent, Somali-American community advocate Mohamud Noor, may have used the Cedar-Riverside address to register nearly 150 voters who live outside of the district. Investigators found that wasn't true.
Elections officials say only 16 people were registered at that address this year, and a quirk in how voter records are updated explain all but two of them. Out of the 141 total registrations associated with the mailbox center address since 2008, nearly 40 percent came from a state law requiring elections officials to update the voter rolls when the voters change their address through the U.S. postal service.
But Rice said Thursday that he isn't second-guessing his decision to bring the concerns to light.
"If you wanted me to say, 'We should have waited around to bring this petition,' that's ridiculous," Rice said. "I wasn't going to do that. We have an election going on right now."
When Rice filed the petition on the first day of absentee voting, he wanted to make sure no one was improperly voting from the wrong address, he said. Hestill has questions about the remaining 60 percent of voter registrations tied to the mail-center address that came through registration drives and other methods.
Two voters registered at the mailbox-center address have already voted by absentee, but a board in charge of overseeing that process has rejected those ballots.
While facts are finally beginning to emerge in the case, the political fallout may have just begun. Somali-American community activist Omar Jamal said at a hearing today that the Kahn petition was meant to scare Somalis from voting in the election. Rice denies it was a political tactic.
Noor supporter Ilhan Omar said the complaint put Somalis in a negative light.
"If you read any of the blogs, the conservative blogs, do you know what they're saying about our community?" Omar asked. "They're saying, 'We told you, these are immigrants. They burned their country. And now they're destroying this country.' That is not who we are."
Noor's campaign is demanding an apology from Kahn. Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters Minnesota is urging campaigns to investigate the facts before alleging voter fraud.
Today's hearing was intended to give residents an opportunity to argue they lived at the the Cedar-Riverside mailbox center -- and could therefore vote using that address. But no one made that claim. County Auditor Mark Chapin is expected to issue a finding next week to cancel the registrations of all voters listed at 419 Cedar Ave.
With the help of Somali interpreters, Chapin encouraged the voters to register again, using the address where they live.