At their meeting on Tuesday, Faribault County commissioners delayed making a decision on how votes cast in the Nov. 8 general election will be counted.
Brenda Baldwin of Blue Earth spoke on behalf of more than 320 people who signed petitions presented to the board.
Petitioners are asking the County Board to pass a resolution allowing for paper ballots to be counted by hand as well as currently by optical scanner.
“We are trying to be pro-active in stopping voter fraud in Faribault County before it happens,” says Baldwin. “We would like to recommend that to put this beast to an end, we do both, a hand count and a machine count which will allow the results to speak for themselves.”
If commissioners decide to allow votes to be hand-counted at their Oct. 18 meeting, County Auditor/treasurer Darren Esser says a rough estimate of the extra cost will be around $20,000.
Two items on the petitioners proposed resolution, says Esser, cannot be changed by the County Board.
He says state law will not allow requiring votes to be cast in-person except for authorized/verified absentee ballots or that votes must be cast on the same day of the election.
At the request of a board member, Esser offered an alternative resolution to assure residents that elections in the county will continue to be fair and secure.
“If valid proof, as determined by the County Board of Commissioners, exists of unauthorized access to Faribault County voting machine data, to the extent allowed by law, it will immediately discontinue the use of voting machines in Faribault County for all county, state, and federal elections,” says the resolution.
According to the resolution, use of machines would resume if the commissioners are confident any possible manipulation has been resolved.
Baldwin says the Esser’s proposed resolution doesn’t address what comes out of an optical scanner is what went into it.
“It does absolutely nothing to protect the citizen’s vote and everything to protect a hackable machine,” she says. “`Has to make you wonder why.”
The petition drive to collect signatures, says Baldwin, began when the auditor’s office was unable to produce a cast vote record.
She says the document is used to audit results to assure the public that voting machines or optical scanners have not be tampered with.
“Unfortunately, neither our auditor or his staff knew what that record was or how to access it,” she says.
Esser says there are no state laws allowing or disallowing votes to be counted by both optical scanners and hand-count.
He says there are no specific procedures in law to fix any results discrepancies when both methods of counting are used.
“As an accountant, I am very uneasy when there is not a clear set of rules and procedures to follow,” he says. “The secretary of state has no official opinion at this time. It appears to be uncharted territory.”