Minnesota GOP Rep. spreads voter fraud disinformation, draws rebuke from SoS

The lawmaker cited a video claiming there are more than 1.2 million "missing" votes.
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen.

A Minnesota lawmaker is resurfacing months-old, unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, drawing sharp criticism from the Secretary of State.

"Did your vote count in 2020?" asks Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen at the start of a Sept. 21, 2021 video posted to YouTube, with the title "Minnesota Integrity." The six-term Republican from Glencoe, who handily won reelection that year, then goes on to suggests 39% of ballots in the state "were not connected to a registered voter" as of Nov. 29, 2020, which is after the election was certified. That figure includes 700.000 absentee ballots.

He then calls for a "forensic audit" to "find out what the actual vote count was."

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon pointed to comments Simon provided to Minnesota Reformer (which the outlet published in an email newsletter). Simon described the fraud allegations as "unsubstantiated garbage."

So where is Gruenhagen getting these figures?

In the video, he refers to a vide from Jan. 18, 2021, posted by a group called "Midwest Swamp Watch." In the video, the presenter pulls data from two sources: the 2020 State Canvassing Board report filed Nov. 24, 2020 (available here), and registered voter history files provided via a public records request. The presenter compares the vote totals in the former to the registered voter totals in the latter to come up with a gap of 1.28 million ballots "not connected to a registered voter." The channel describes these as "missing votes," making up 38.9% of all votes cast in the state during the 2020 general election.

The secretary of state's office said this is a case of misinterpreting records, and cited a comment on the YouTube video it said explains the mistake. Essentially, the presenter incorrectly conflates two different databases — accepted absentee ballots recorded immediately in the Statewide Voter Registration System, and publicly available historic voter records — that have two distinct purposes. The latter can be updated as much as six weeks after the election.

Simon, to the Reformer, said spreading this type of fraud misinformation is "careless, foolish, irresponsible and has the real potential to mislead people, and that’s what’s so poisonous about all this.”

A Star Tribune poll published Tuesday found just over one in every four Minnesota registered voters (26%) believe President Joe Biden did not "legitimately" win the presidential election. That percentage was generally higher outside of the Twin Cities metro. But in all regions, at least half of respondents said yes, Biden won legitimately.

Despite explicit allegations and repeated intimations claiming voter fraud during the 2020 election, there is no evidence, 10 months later, of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the U.S. In Maricopa County, Arizona, a monthslong audit — initiated by Republicans in the state and backed by groups that believed the election was stolen from Donald Trump — found Biden did indeed win more votes than the former president, Reuters reported this week. And the New York Times revealed that the Trump campaign, despite knowing claims of voter fraud tied to Dominion Voting Systems were untrue, continued to spread false fraud allegations publicly.

Simon, who is running for reelection, has been a vocal critic of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in 2020.

The Office of the Secretary of State said there were 3,292,997 voters in 2020, out of  4,118,462 eligible individuals. About 7.89% of them registered on Election Day. Biden beat Trump by 233,012 votes.

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