Minnesota Secretary of State Simon visits Austin

Published 8:14 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

As part of a six stop tour of the 1st District Tuesday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon came to Austin to talk with election and city officials.

The tour was part of the district’s special primary to cut down the candidates for the seat left vacant by Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died early this year after a battle with cancer.

“I try, if I can, to stop by and thank the election judges,” Simon said Tuesday on the bottom floor of City Hall as voters walked in and out. “There’s just a lot of moving parts.”

During every election, Simon said he tries to make stops throughout the state just to be on the ground floor of the process.

He said stops like Tuesday’s are important to gauge how effectively things are running.

“I can have a Zoom call, I can exchange an email or phone calls, but until you’re there and you see the building where the voting takes place, you can’t understand the challenges people talk about,” Simon said. “Whether it’s space considerations, whether it’s ventilation, whether it’s equipment issues, whether it’s public access issues. There’s no substitute for in-person. No substitute.”

However, another reason Simon tries to make stops at polling places is to shine a light on the system and reassure the public how well Minnesota’s system works.

The storm of stolen election accusations after the 2020 election put a spotlight on the process as a whole and left many to defend the voting process.

“For example, just being here and being in the other places I’ve stopped does shine a light; it attracts attention to a very good system, the honest system as it is,” Simon stressed.

Throughout the nation In the days following the 2020 election, accusations also started circulating that the machines themselves were fixed and that in some cases they were changing votes or people were somehow manipulating the results.

However, Simon pointed to Minnesota law that requires those in ownership of voting machines, whether that is a city, county or township, are required to test the machines in the two weeks before each election.

What’s more is that the public is allowed to witness these tests.

“Any person off the street — you don’t have to be a big shot or VIP or anything,” said Simon. “Come right off the street and watch them kick the tires of the election equipment.”

Above all, however, tours like Tuesday’s allows Simon to visit with the people who make the elections work and to see the voter turnout in person, which in turn helps demonstrate one of the nation’s strongest voting systems.

“People have faith and confidence,” Simon said. “We wouldn’t be No. 1 in America in voter turnout at almost 80% turnout, which is absolutely sky high; that wouldn’t happen unless people thought the system was fundamentally flawed.”

While it’s hard to determine exactly how election day was fairing throughout the district, Simon said that what he’s seen has been very optimistic.

“I always ask the election judges, because they always have their finger on the pulse and it depends on where you are,” Simon said. “Some people say, ‘well we usually get a morning rush or we usually get an evening rush.’ So it’s hard to talk about turnout, but in terms of just the logistics, things are going smoothly. No glitches so far. No disruptions in the polling place, which is good. Steady turnout.”