Facts About Voter Records and Voter Validation

During this challenging time of claims of fraud in Elections, both in MN and nation-wide, it is helpful to have accurate information from authentic sources for oneself and to share and dispel falsehoods.  Provided for you from the MN Secretary of State’s Office are overviews of how voter records in MN are updated and how voter registrations are validated.  In addition, sites for discerning truth in media are offered:

  1. Automatic List Maintenance (ALM) inactivates 95,181 voters with their status updated to “Inactive-ALM”.
    The ALM is an automated process that updates voter records in the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) to Inactive-ALM status if they have not voted or updated their voter registration record within the previous four years. There is good, hard work in making sure the SQL (language used in programming and designed for managing data held in a relational database management system) job accurately pulls only the voter records from the SVRS database that meet very specific criteria:
  • Voter records with a status of either Active or Challenged (Inactive, Deceased or Deleted voter records are excluded)
  • Voter records that do not have voting history posted for having voted in ANY election they were eligible to vote in within the last 4 calendar years  -  if they have not voted since January 1st, 2017 or later,  they meet the ALM criteria
  • Voter records that do not have registration activity within the last 4 calendar years – if their voter record’s “updated registration date” is not January 1st, 2017 or later, they meet the ALM criteria

2.  How is a registration validated?  (taken from rom the 2018 Program Evaluation Report by the Office of Legislative Auditor)

Once county staff have created a voter record, they must verify the registrant’s information. SVRS verifies a voter’s identity by comparing information submitted by the applicant to data on record within the Department of Public Safety or the Social Security Administration. County election staff verify a registrant’s residence by mailing a postcard.

  1. Identity Verification:
  • Administrative rules require that SVRS compare the applicant’s name, date of birth, and either (1) a Minnesota driver’s license or Minnesota state identification card number or (2) the last four digits of the applicant’s social security number to other data sources.10 The social security number is used if the applicant does not have a Minnesota driver’s license or state identification card number or if verification against those sources fails.
  • State law requires comparison of voter registrations with the above-mentioned sources within ten days after county staff enter a voter registration application into SVRS. SVRS checks applicants’ information against external databases overnight, and the results are returned to SVRS the following morning. If a comparison yields an “exact match,” SVRS automatically marks the voter’s record as verified.
  • Some voter records will fail the “exact match” criteria. For example, the Department of Public Safety’s data do not contain a separate field for suffixes like “Jr.” or “Sr.” The department returns registrants with such names from the verification process as “possible matches,” which county election officials have to verify manually. If a comparison is unsuccessful and the registrant does not respond before the election to a mailing from the county election office, the registrant will appear on the roster with one of two notations. Voters who registered by mail and who have not previously voted in a federal election in Minnesota will have a “See ID” notation printed on the roster. The individual must show documentation that proves identity and residence for election day registrants. Other registrants who fail verification will have a “Challenged—Unverifiable” notation on the roster. Such registrants resolve the challenge by responding to an election judge’s questions about their name and date of birth; they do not have to provide proof of residence.

2. Residence Verification:

  • County election staff mail postal verification cards (PVCs) to confirm the addresses of new and updated registrants. The postal service may not send the PVC to a forwarding address; it may be delivered only to the name and address on the card. If the postal service returns any cards to the county election office as undeliverable, county officials must resolve the reasons for their return. A postcard could be returned for many reasons, ranging from inaccurate data entry to fraudulent registration.
  • County election staff told us, generally, that their process for resolving returned PVCs depends on why the card was returned. If the returned card includes a permanent forwarding address that is out of state, county staff mark the voter’s record as “inactive.” Inactive voter records are excluded from voter rosters on election day.

3.  OSS Legislative Update

The Office of the Secretary of State will continue to support and promote policy changes it has in the past, including Restoration of Voting Rights, Automatic Voter Registration, Early Voting, Permanent Absentee, and the like. In addition to these policy changes, the Office will be pursuing a technical elections administration bill. This bill is something the Office pursues on  a regular basis and includes various technical amendments to Minnesota election law. The Office is also working on a technical, noncontroversial agency bill. This bill does not touch elections, but has cleanup for various office functions for the administration and business services divisions, and the Safe at Home Program.

Of course, as it is a budget year, the Office is hard at work to protect the budget to ensure that Minnesotans around the state continue to receive the levels of service we’ve provided them thus far. In addition to protecting our budget, we are also working to 1) secure costs associated with moving the Office’s Business Services Division after the lease at Empire Drive is not renewed by the landlord, 2) secure the costs associated with a full time youth and civic engagement program, and 3) invest in the growth of the Safe at Home Program.

I hope this is helpful. Should you have any questions please contact the Director of Government Relations, Samm Bonawitz at samm.bonawitz@state.mn.us.

4.  Party Registration:  Every once in a while I will pick up an Elections call asking for the process to change party registration or party affiliation.  You may know, but in Minnesota we don’t have party registration connected to voter registration.  While some states require party registration in connection with primary elections, our statewide primary is a single ballot, which goes to any primary voter.  The ‘stay in your column’ system of our single ballot may need explaining to new voters, but it keeps us from requiring party information in voter registrations.

5.  Minitex sent out their electronic newsletter (Minitex Messenger) recently, and it included a piece on media literacy.  This connected in my head to the disinformation and misinformation around elections and voting.  Food for thought?  It also made me think that partnerships with libraries to hold workshops or put ohttps://minitex.umn.edu/news/2021-01/what-media-literacy-and-why-it-impo... information on how to discern the truth from the deluge might go very well.

  1. https://minitex.umn.edu/news/2021-01/what-media-literacy-and-why-it-important
  2. In response to an FBI bulletin warning about possible armed protests at state capitols, Secretary of State Simon Tweeted, “This is why we have to rebut and condemn the inflammatory lies and fantasies about the 2020 election. We could see more violence, or worse, unless leaders acknowledge that our election was fundamentally fair, honest, and secure.”
  3. This tip sheet from MediaSmarts entitled How to Tell What’s True Online:  https://mediasmarts.ca/sites/default/files/tip-sheet/tipsheet_break_the_fake.pdf
  4. While not all disinformation comes from outside the country, some certainly does.  This is a piece from Homeland Security: https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/19_1008_cisa_the-war-on-pineapple-understanding-foreign-interference-in-5-steps.pdf
  1. Just a reminder that after February 4, any outreach questions or concerns should be directed to the Director of Communications  at peter.bartz-gallagher@state.mn.us or 651-201-1332.  

Be well, and stay safe.  Thank you for all you do.

Michael Wall
Voter Outreach Specialist