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Proposed voter ID amendment should not be confused with current voter laws

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WILLMAR -- All the talk about voter photo identification may have some new voters confused about what is actually required when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

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Although people will be voting on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to present a "government-issued" photo ID prior to voting in future elections, that's not the law now.

During this election, voters who are already registered and are on the roster don't have to bring anything when they vote.

Their eligibility has already been established and they can sign the ledger next to their printed name before getting a ballot.

Those who intend to register to vote on Election Day in the precinct where they live, however, must bring proof of their identity and proof of where they live.

A list of acceptable forms of identifying information is available on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website: www.sos.state. mn.us.

Although not common in rural Minnesota, it is legal for people to challenge the eligibility of voters at the election polls.

But there's a clear line on what a challenger can and cannot do.

"They can't just challenge somebody willy-nilly," said Patricia Turgeon, from the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, in a telephone interview this week.

A challenger must have "personal knowledge" that a voter is not eligible, she said.

Anything less would be a felony on the part of the challenger, said Turgeon.

A challenger cannot, for example, challenge a voter's eligibility based on their appearance or the suspicion they may not be old enough or may not be a citizen or resident of the precinct in which they are voting.

An election judge, an authorized challenger appointed by political parties or non-partisan candidate or even another voter may challenge the eligibility of a voter as long as that challenger has personal knowledge that a voter may not be eligible to vote.

According to state law, authorized challengers or the parties that appointed them "must not compile lists of voters to challenge on the basis of mail sent by a political party that was returned as undeliverable or if receipt by the intended recipient was not acknowledged in the case of registered mail."

To make a legitimate challenge, the challenger must notify the election judge and sign a written oath stating the grounds of the challenge.

The challenger cannot confront the voter on his own.

Instead, the head election judge would talk to the identified voter before his or her vote is cast to determine eligibility.

Mark Thompson, interim Kandiyohi County auditor, said election judges are trained on the proper way to handle challenges.

He said during past training sessions conducted in Willmar, a few Kandiyohi County election judges have indicated there have been appointed challengers in their polling locations over the years.

"All the judges are trained on it, but the head judge, since it's happened so infrequently, would handle that situation," Thompson said.

Authorized challengers are appointed by political or non-partisan entities. Only one challenger per group is allowed and challengers must identify themselves to the head election judge, according to information on the Secretary of State's website.

According to the website, challengers must not be disruptive; must not make lists of who has or hasn't voted; must not handle or inspect registration cards, files or lists; and must not attempt to influence voting or go within 6 feet of the ballot counter.

Challengers that are "overzealous" and disruptive can be ejected from polling locations by the head election judge, Turgeon said.

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High voter turnout expected in Kandiyohi County

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County currently has 23,548 registered voters, according to the Kandiyohi County Auditor's office.

During the last presidential election in 2008, there were 3,465 new voters who registered to vote on Election Day. It's expected a similar number will register to vote on Tuesday.

Anticipating a high voter turnout this year, Kandiyohi County prepared 26,000 official ballots and 6,000 absentee ballots.

The county had sent out 1,900 absentee ballots by mid-week.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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