Voters Alliance lawsuit critical of voter eligibility monitoring

Longtime critics of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and his oversight of state election law have filed a federal lawsuit aimed at tightening the enforcement of voter-eligibility requirements.

Members of the Minnesota Voters Alliance contend that election officials have not been following the eligibility criteria detailed in the state constitution. They claim there are still unanswered questions about tens of thousands of people whose votes were counted in 2008 and 2010, when statewide recounts were needed to decide key races.

During a news conference Tuesday to announce the lawsuit, the group's attorney, Erick Kaardal, said ballots cast by ineligible voters are "poisoning the pool."

"The Emmer recount contest was flawed," he said of the 2010 governor's race that DFLer Mark Dayton won, arguing that there was no process after the ballots were counted for separating "these ineligible voters in the election contest" from those that were eligible.

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In a separate challenge during the recount process, Emmer suffered a legal defeat when the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected his request that the court order precincts to match the their number of ballots cast with the number of voters' signatures on the rolls.

State Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Erickson lost a recount in 2008. She ran again in 2010 and won. But Erickson said questions remain about some of the votes cast in her House district four years ago and about the eligibility of some people who registered at the polls.

"I want to be a part of this lawsuit and ensure that our constitution is honored, and that the secretary of state's office is also honoring a responsibility they have to verify those registrations," Erickson said.

Tuesday's lawsuit comes as some lawmakers are working on a bipartisan bill that would create a new voter verification system without requiring photo identification cards or changing the state constitution.

Some Republican lawmakers are weighing the compromise to address criticism of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide if Minnesotans should show a photo ID at the polls.

Kaardal also represents Minnesota Majority, which has gone to court with its allies to challenge a state law prohibiting politicking within 100 feet of a voting site. In 2010, a group of conservative activists defied that law and wore tea party T-shirts and buttons that said "Please I.D. Me" when they showed up to vote. The slogan refers to a Republican-backed proposal that would require Minnesotans to show photo identification to vote.

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State said the office is reviewing the lawsuit but does not plan to comment on pending litigation.