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PoliGraph: Severson wrong on rejected ballots

False image.GIFBy Catharine Richert

State Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, says that if he's elected Secretary of State, he'll do a better job of making sure military personnel overseas have their say in local elections.

During the 2008 elections, "military ballots were 16 times more likely to be rejected by local officials than other absentee ballots," Severson wrote on his Web site. Severson repeated the claim at a press conference on June 7 at the State Office Building.

Absentee ballots played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the Senate election recount.

But Severson's claim is based on data that have since been corrected by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank and the original source of this claim. In fact, the rejection rate for military ballots was quite a bit lower. Although the correct information is easily found by reading the revised report, the data remain incorrect on Severson's web site.

The Evidence

The data Severson cited was published in October of 2009 by the Center for the American Experiment, which got its data from an analysis published by the Heritage Foundation in July of 2009. The Center for the American Experiment did not list its sources.

But according to Hans von Spakovsky and Eric Eversole, authors of the Heritage Foundation report, they initially misread some important numbers and determined that military absentee ballots were 16 times more likely to be rejected than regular absentee ballots.

In March, they corrected their report and posted the accurate information on their web site.

"If the military voter in Minnesota cast his or her absentee ballot, that ballot was nearly two times more likely to be rejected by local election officials, as compared to other absentee voters statewide," the Heritage Foundation report now reads.

The Verdict

Severson's claim came from two reports that had the numbers wrong. In fact, military absentee ballots were two times more likely to be rejected than compared to regular absentee ballots - far less than Severson stated.

It's a false for Severson's claim.

Sources:

Dan Severson for Secretary of State, accessed June 9, 2010

The Heritage Foundation, America's Military Voters: Re-enfranchising the Disenfranchised, by Hans von Spakovsky and M. Eric Eversole, July 28, 2009. Updated March, 2010.

The Center for the American Experiment, No Longer a National Model: Fifteen Recommendations for Fixing Minnesota Election Law and Practice, by Kent Kaiser, October, 2009

Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, Minnesota's Elections--Transparent, Verifiable, and Accurate, Feb. 25, 2010

Moritz Law School, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order for Judgment, accessed June 10, 2010

Minnesota Blue Book 2009-2010, Chapter 10: Minnesota Votes, accessed June 10, 2010

Interview, Dan Severson, June 10, 2010

Interview M. Eric Eversole, author of America's Military Voters: Re-enfranchising the Disenfranchised, June 10, 2010

Interview, Kent Kaiser, author of No Longer a National Model: Fifteen Recommendations for Fixing Minnesota Election Law and Practice, June 10, 2010

Interview, Kathy Bonnifield, Associate Director, Citizens for Election Integrity-Minnesota, June 10, 2010

PoliGraph is a regular series of reports that checks the veracity of politicians' claims. It is a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

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