By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Does anyone out there still heed the old admonition, If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all? Apparently not when it comes to Minnesota's chief election official, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. Always controversial, Kiffmeyer has been buried under an avalanche of criticisms in recent months. Detractors have bluntly called into question her motives or her competence or, just as often, both.
The barbs have come from all quarters: newspaper editorialists, pundits, judges, local election officials, Democrats, third- party folk, even a few of her fellow Republicans. With the elections drawing near, Kiffmeyer's actions have even attracted some national scrutiny. Last week, a Washington Post article examined the exploitation of terror fears as a means to depress voter turnout; not surprisingly, Kiffmeyer's campaign to place posters at polling places warning about possible "homicide bombers" (FOX News) rated prominent mention.
What follows is a brief compendium of public salvos lobbed Kiffmeyer's way:
"The baseless allegations [that Hennepin County violated federal voter registration rules] represent an appalling lack of expertise and knowledge of the law in the secretary of state's office. The unwarranted charges have taken valuable time away from our staff, at considerable cost to taxpayers.... As chair of the Hennepin County Board, I expect a prompt apology to our staff and the taxpayers. This is obviously not a partisan matter, as Secretary of State Kiffmeyer and I are both Republicans."
--Randy Johnson, chairman of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners (press release, June 18)
"If people take [her] warnings seriously, they will be suspiciously eyeing every 'strange looking' neighbor waiting in line [at polling places]. Thankfully, election officials around the state refused to put [her terrorist alert] posters up. But the point is: Kiffmeyer should not have sent them out to begin with. Where is her judgment?"
"Then there's Kiffmeyer's bizarre obsession with voter fraud, which led her to clash with local election officials over the installation of a new computer system that complicates same-day registration. There's no evidence of voter fraud tainting Minnesota elections, which traditionally rank among the strongest in voter turnout in the nation. But that hasn't stopped Kiffmeyer."
--Editorial (Ely Timberjay, October 5)
"Normally, secretaries of state manage to avoid criticism. In this case, however, much more criticism is needed."
--Editorial (University of Minnesota Daily, September 21)
"[Kiffmeyer] told a prayer group in May, the 'five words' that are 'probably most destructive' in the nation today are 'separation of church and state'.... Kiffmeyer's defense of greater church involvement in the democratic process appears curious in light of rules she proposed that would have had precisely the opposite effect on most Minnesotans. Kiffmeyer recently decided that in order to vote in November every would-be voter in the state must show an ID reflecting an 'exact match' to the file of names, driver's license numbers, and dates of birth circulated by her office. Such rules would have the effect of robbing the vote from thousands of state residents, including those who encounter errors in the information about them on Kiffmeyer's official list."
--Hans Johnson (In These Times, August 20)
"As a result of her misfeasance, all Minnesotans--including, ironically, those Minnesota National Guardsmen and Guardswomen fighting for democracy in Iraq and Bosnia--will be denied an opportunity to practice true democracy here at home."
--Jack Uldrich, Vice-Chairman, Minnesota Independence Party (letter to the Star Tribune, September 21)
"We therefore conclude that removal of candidate Shepard from the ballot for the reasons articulated by the secretary of state is contrary to federal law."
--Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice (and former Republican lawmaker) Kathleen Blatz (in a signed brief, September 8)
"Kiffmeyer has been the center of controversy nearly since her first election in 1998. She claimed direct knowledge of election fraud during her campaign although has never been able to substantiate the claims. In fact, it was illegal for her as an election judge (the capacity in which she claimed to have witnessed the malfeasance) to withhold information regarding voting fraud."
--Shawne Towle, editor of political newsletter (Checks and Balances, October 5)
"Whatever the motivation, suppressing voter turnout will be the result of most of her actions and that's a strange thing to say about a Minnesota secretary of state."
--Editorial (Politics in Minnesota newsletter, September 15)
"In less than six years, she has distinguished herself as probably the least competent person to hold this important office in Minnesota history."
--Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat (Star Tribune, October 6)