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Statewide View: Minnesotans, beware of election misinformation, the weaponizing of fear

From the column: "They don’t seem to care if information is false. They seem to care only that communities they believe don’t align with their values or goals — immigrant communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, especially — experience more difficulties in voting."

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Jeff Koterba / Cagle Cartoons
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Minnesota has some of the highest voter registration and voter turnout in the country. That’s not by mistake. We have some of the best practices when it comes to access to the ballot for eligible Minnesotans and election administrations.

However, we've seen the rise of fringe groups and organizations that are a part of a larger contingent that has leveraged the former president’s Big Lie, culminating with the Jan. 6 insurrection, to fuel current threats of violence on Nov. 8. These groups are often the same folks who push falsehoods about rampant voter fraud and the fix being provisional ballots or voter photo ID while refusing common-sense reforms that make voting for eligible Minnesotans easier, like vote by mail.

Make no mistake: These fringe groups and partisans are not limited to states like Texas, Georgia, or Michigan. We’ve seen them in action right here in our backyards. They are already turning out to local county-board meetings, peddling disinformation as an apparent way to limit access to the ballot and attempt to inject greater partisan elements at the back end of the election-canvassing and certification process.

They seem determined to weaponize fear as a way to cast doubt in our absentee-ballots acceptance-and-rejection process, despite clear and objective evidence disproving their lies.

A Minnesota-based group seems to be one of two making the rounds to county-board meetings in greater Minnesota and first-ring suburbs, spreading disinformation and citing conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machine software.

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Other organizations have leveraged misinformation and disinformation to give their preferred party or candidate an unfair advantage. These organizations seem determined to misguide Minnesotans and sow distrust into our elections process, despite repeatedly being shown evidence that the system works.

They don’t seem to care if information is false. They seem to care only that communities they believe don’t align with their values or goals — immigrant communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, especially — experience more difficulties in voting. They seem to be working to dial back Minnesota’s inclusive voting rights and best-practices elections-administration process.

The upcoming midterm elections are an inflection point for voting rights. The chaos caused by the Big Lie and bad-faith fringe groups has enabled more mis- and disinformation. Even worse, with the unprecedented resignations of election workers — some of the most trusted officials in the voting process — due to threats and fears of violence across the country, there’s a void that must be filled to protect the public against these fringe partisan havoc-seekers.

Something must be done. Speaking up for protecting all eligible Minnesotans’ right to vote and having their vote count is not a partisan position; it’ll take everyone.

In Minnesota, we are ready to do the work. We've launched “ I Vote MN! 2022 ,” our statewide nonpartisan election-protection program. Hundreds of our nonpartisan volunteers are working to make sure all voters feel safe and supported, as well as able to cast their ballot and have it count on Election Day. These volunteers are everyday Minnesotans from across partisan divides, coming together to make sure we have a positive voting experience.

There are fewer than 40 days left until the midterms. It is critical we build a multiracial, multicultural, bipartisan coalition dedicated to telling Minnesotans the truth: Our democracy is at risk, but we must not allow fearmongers to sow distrust in our elections process or in each other. It’s up to all able Minnesotans to educate our families, neighbors, and communities, or we will lose accountability of our leaders.

Democracy isn’t about voting for a party. It is about Americans being able to cast a ballot that counts for the candidate they feel best aligns with their values. That’s a universal value all Minnesotans should stand by.

This is the time to stand together regardless of partisan affiliations and collectively say, “No, not in Minnesota.” Make no mistake: We will reject election lies.

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Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera is executive director of Common Cause Minnesota (commoncause.org/ minnesota/), a statewide, nonpartisan nonprofit located in St. Paul. She wrote this for the News Tribune.

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Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera

Related Topics: ELECTION 2022MISINFORMATION
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