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MINNESOTA: Some voters still question why they weren't registered
Grand Forks Herald. Associated Press 13 November 2004

ST. PAUL - Maybe she made a mistake when she registered to vote while renewing her driver's license in 2002, but 25-year-old Alissa Doth doesn't think so.

When she went to vote in 2002, she wasn't on the roster. She had problems in 2003 and again this year.

"I made sure to verify that I was filling out the correct spot, the signature on the right-hand side of the form," said Doth. "I verified with people at the county service center and showed up to the polls and was not registered."

Minnesota has same-day voter registration, so Doth was able to sign up to vote at her polling place. But she was angry.

"I called a bunch of friends and said, 'I'm a disenfranchised voter. I finally understand what that's like to be a disenfranchised voter,'" said Doth. "And everyone's response was, 'But you got to vote, so why does it matter?' I kind of feel like yes I got to vote, but there still are plenty of people who maybe show up at the polls and maybe didn't have the proper ID and wouldn't be able to vote."

After last week's election, Doth sent a letter of complaint to Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer.

Kiffmeyer said she's heard from some voters who had similar problems with Minnesota's Motor Voter registration system - run by Driver and Vehicle Services - but she couldn't quantify the problem.

Kiffmeyer said there were also a few unexplained reports of voters being ped from the roster. That's what happened to Ryan Kucera, who lives in St. Paul. Two years ago, he voted in his precinct, but he wasn't on the list this year.

He had his driver's license with him to prove his identity and address. But the problem is still troubling to election officials.

Kiffmeyer thinks some people were removed accidentally when voter registration lists were d to account for Minnesotans who had died since the last election.

New system

But that explanation doesn't satisfy Hennepin County elections manager Pat O'Connor. He thinks the registration problems stem from the state's decision to switch to a new voter registration system just months before the presidential election.

"For those who have registered before, their name should have carried over into the new system through the data conversion processing," O'Connor said. "And my guess is somehow they got ped in that process."

Hennepin County employees examined every single voter registration in Hennepin County line-by-line. It took months to look over the more than 700,000 entries.

"We had uncovered quite a number of errors," O'Connor said. "These were brought to the attention of the staff at the Secretary of State's office, and they made the necessary corrections in time for the election."

O'Connor said Hennepin County didn't appear to have any major problems on Election Day. But he suspects that some voters might not have taken the time to complain, especially if they were still able to vote because of same-day registration.

Ramsey County reported some registration glitches too, but Elections Manager Joe Mansky said the problems were small compared to what happened a few days before the election.

"The Friday before the general election, our system actually went down while we were doing absentee voting," said Mansky. "We had 20 to 25 people standing in line, and not able to access the voter registration system - it was a real problem."

Bigger challenge

Two years from now will bring an even greater challenge as Minnesota tests out $38 million worth of new voting equipment, as part of the federal "Help America Vote Act."

The equipment will allow voters in greater Minnesota to correct mistakes on their ballots - an option many Twin Cities-area voters have had for years.

The law also requires all precincts to make at least one voting station accessible for people with disabilities.

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