Secretary of State Forum

Candidates agree on most issues except fraud

The recent candidate forum for Secretary of State revealed broad agreement among the candidates on a number of key issues relative to voters with disabilities. During the July event at St. Paul’s Wellstone Center, the candidates—Mary Kiffmeyer (R), Bruce Kennedy, Mark Ritchie (DFL), and Joel Spoonheim (I)—generally felt that the accessibility and equipment requirements of HAVA are steps in the right direction for the voting rights of people with disabilities. Other comments regarding HAVA included the need for additional funding, more options for voting equipment and continued discussions from the disability community.

Some disagreements surfaced on the issue of voter fraud. “Certainly, there is voter fraud in Minnesota,” said Kiffmeyer. Both she and Kennedy felt that it is not unreasonable to believe there is voter fraud and said systems should be in place to prevent it. Conversely, Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Spoonheim did not find voter fraud to be an issue and felt that the focus should be on encouraging people to vote. “I’m not going to let people who aren’t eligible vote, but I’m going to spend my time trying to rebuild our faith and trust in our system,” said Ritchie.

A question from the audience raised a very simple but important question: why should people vote? The candidates responded that voting creates accountability within our government, that it is our process of choosing our leaders, and that it is an expression of our beliefs.

The forum was moderated by David Hancox from the Metropolitan Center Independent Center. Co-sponsors for the event included Arc Greater Twin Cities, the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, Courage Center, Merrick, the Minnesota Disability Law Center and the Minnesota Participation Project. The Minnesota State Council on Disability provided ASL interpreter services.