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Capitol Chatter: Simon says Minnesota election will not be rigged

ST. PAUL—Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says the election is rigged against him, although he has offered no proof.

Many people, including some in the federal government, fear Russia will try to affect the election with electronic attacks.

But Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon disregards such talk, at least in the state where he is chief of elections.

While votes are reported via computer, Simon said that Minnesota retains a paper trail so returns may be recreated from scratch if needed.

Also, every election jurisdiction is required to conduct a public pre-election test, helping make rigging "is a lot less likely," the secretary added. "It would be extremely difficult to rig or fix a statewide election in Minnesota."

Trump has called for supporters to monitor polling places Nov. 8, but Simon said state law forbids observers, other than one from each party, within 100 feet. At least one county plans to have unarmed "sergeant at arms" guards in each polling place.

While the National Governors' Association released a statement days before the election saying the vote would be secure, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said there still could be threats.

Every election system across the country is potentially vulnerable, he said, despite the fact that "we are doing everything we can to secure the system for next Tuesday."

Trump had indicated he may not accept the results of Tuesday's vote. The only time Americans did not trust election results, Dayton said, was in 1860, which preceded the Civil War.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura agreed with Trump that the election is rigged, but with a different twist.

"It is rigged because there is no third choice out there," Ventura told former Fargo, N.D., radio talk show host Ed Schultz on the Russia-based RT America video news channel.

Minnesota No. 1 again?

Minnesota has held its head in shame the past couple of years, ever since the 2014 general election when barely more than half of its eligible voters turned out.

For some political observers, it was a shameful performance for a state that had become used to leading the country in voting.

Simon has been traveling the state to encourage people to vote, and he predicts Minnesota will return to its best-turnout state status.

Seventy-six percent of eligible voters cast ballots four years ago, in the latest presidential election. That is within a couple of points of other recent presidential elections.

Police snap on body cams

Minneapolis has rolled out body cameras and all officers responding to emergency calls will wear them.

The department spent years studying and testing body cameras, as have other cities across the state. The state's most populated city follows many others in introducing the cameras.

"The full implementation of officer-worn body cameras delivers on an ongoing commitment to greater transparency and accountability," Mayor Betsy Hodges said, although critics are skeptical the public will know much more about police activities since state law does not allow the public to see most of the video.

DNR open longer

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is operating its telephone line more hours on weekdays and on Saturdays.

The Information Center phones will open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, after years of closing at 4:30 p.m. And, for the first time, people can call on Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We want to be available when people may be off work and perhaps even out hunting, fishing, camping or snowmobiling," Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.

The phone number is 888-646-6367.

Prayer of a chance?

The Minnesota Catholic Conference says that in the run-up to one of the strangest elections in history, voters should give prayer a chance.

"Prayer matters because voting, like everything else we do as citizens, is an opportunity to serve God by loving our neighbors," the conference said in a pre-election statement. "To do this well, we need God's guidance and the wisdom of his church, especially in a difficult election year."

Senators seek rail fairness

Four U.S. senators ask the federal Surface Transportation Board to take action to increase railroad competition and to ensure fair treatment for shippers.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and David Vitter, R-La., sent the letter, saying consolidation in the rail industry has put shippers at a disadvantage and increased rates.

"Our economy demands a system where railroads as well as their customers can proposer," the senators wrote. "To achieve this balance, rail service must be fair, efficient and cost effective, especially to captive shippers or those with access to only one rail service provider."

Railroads have exemptions from some anti-trust laws, the senators said, which hurts shippers.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.