11.01.2008 0

Big Trouble in Little Minnesota

  • On: 11/13/2008 10:55:47
  • In: Stop ACORN!
  • By Isaac MacMillen

    Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie should be removed from office. His heavily partisan and questionable connections and the manner in which he has allowed voting to occur in his state is unacceptable. And the fact that he intends to “oversee” the recount for the Minnesota Senate seat is cause for great concern.

    Why the urgency in this race? A quick look at the situation gives the answer:

    As November 4th drew near, incumbent Senator Norm Coleman (R), comedian Al Franken (D), and former Senator Dean Barkley (I) were locked in a battle for the important seat.

    Should Senator Coleman win, Republicans would have enough votes to have a shot at halting the liberal Democratic agenda in the Senate.

    Should Franken win, the Democrats would come one seat closer to a supermajority—and with two more seats still in play after November 4th (Alaska and Georgia), the importance of Minnesota becomes apparent.

    After November 4th, however, the race was too close to call—Coleman led, but only by some 725 votes. That was well under the margin which triggered a state recount.

    But before performing the state-mandated recount, suspicious reports began to emerge from (heavily-Democratic) counties that “tired” workers “miscounted” the vote totals—and the updated totals were heavily in favor of the Democrat. Now, Senator Coleman is leading by only 206 votes.

    Granted, in any election, there will inevitably be errors. But the total number of “missing” votes that Democrats picked up in this extremely close senate race (504) is more than all the “missing” votes for all races for the state legislature, federal House of Representatives, and president—combined (482).

    Front and center in this battle has been Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. The former non-profit worker ran a successful campaign for secretary of state promising to be non-partisan:

    “It’s time we had a Secretary of State we can trust, a Secretary of State that stops using the office for political partisan reason, a Secretary of State that makes sure that everybody can participate and vote with ease and dignity.”

    But some of his connections make that promise seem as questionable as the “appearing” senate votes.

    Ritchie’s campaign received financing from the liberal 527 Secretary of State Project, which endorsed him and funneled money to his campaign. The SoS Project has ties to the controversial liberal group MoveOn.org—which has had a problem last year with election free speech suppression.

    Perhaps the worst endorsement, however—and one which he still proudly displays on his 2006 campaign website—is from the Minnesota ACORN PAC. ACORN as a whole has come under intense fire for its many cases of voter registration fraud this past election—and in previous ones. Minnesota was no stranger.

    In 2004, a police officer pulled over an ACORN worker who had 300 voter registration cards in the trunk, in violation of laws that they be turned in within 10 days. A felony charge was filed. This year, a number of ACORN voter registrations were turned in late, violating state rules, and prompting the county to consider pressing criminal charges.

    A quick look at his 2006 campaign website directs visitors to Project Vote for information on registering. Project Vote, a spin-off of ACORN, has become notorious for its problems, as of late—its executive director went as far as stating that, of its 1.3 million voter registrations this year, 400,000 were rejected as improperly filled out or fraudulent.

    Prior to running for office, Ritchie headed up the “non-partisan” group American Voice, a voter registration group, which partnered with Project Vote and ACORN (and other left-wing and environmentalist groups) to register over 5 million new voters in 2004.

    Endorsements from organizations that engage in such patently unethical (not to mention illegal) activities should make Minnesotans wary. Actively working with them should be cause for serious concern. But there’s more:

    Mark Ritchie hasn’t been forthcoming with his dealings while in office. A legislative auditor launched an investigation into Ritchie after complaints were filed alleging that personal information collected at educational meetings was used for political purposes. The investigation forced Ritchie to admit that he had not been forthcoming about where he obtained the personal information and issued a correction, prompting the auditor to require him to testify under oath.

    While the audit eventually concluded that no laws were broken, it said that Ritchie “did not fulfill his legal obligation to make a full and timely response to a request for information from the Legislative Auditor.”

    Also disturbing is the claim by the conservative group Minnesotan Majority, which claims that Secretary Ritchie used his position to intimidate their voter irregularity investigation.

    Mark Ritchie hasn’t had much time in office—he was only elected in 2006. But what he has done so far, combined with the connections and endorsements he has received, make his ability to run a fair election—or recount—highly questionable. If, during this process, Mark Ritchie succeeds in overturning the will of the voters, then the Minnesota governor and Senator Coleman should take this matter to court.

    A proven, non-partisan leader? Hardly. Mark Ritchie needs to be removed.

    Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.

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