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Group plans to file suit to get access to Minnesota voter data

While the Trump administration battles Minnesota for its voter data, a local conservative group is filing suit, demanding its own chance to scrutinize the voter rolls.

The Minnesota Voters Alliance announced plans Friday to sue Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, who denied the group's request for voter registration data. Among other things, the group wanted to examine the names, addresses, voting history and every registered voter's current status as well as any challenge to that status, all in search of fraudulent votes that may have been cast.

President Donald Trump has claimed, without any apparent grounds, that "millions" of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election, costing him the popular vote. The administration launched a presidential Commission on Election Integrity to compile and comb through the voter data of all 50 states in search of improprieties.

The federal request ran into a legal thresher of lawsuits and balky secretaries of state. Fourteen states, including Minnesota, denied the request outright — for reasons ranging from violations of state privacy laws to concerns that compiling all that information in one place created a tempting target for hackers.

But Dan McGrath, communications director for the Minnesota Voters Alliance, said his group was simply seeking public, nonsensitive data to ensure that Minnesota's elections did not include any votes cast by felons or noncitizens.

"Minnesota voters have the right to independently verify that elections are conducted according to the laws and that no irregularities occurred," McGrath said. "Transparency is a key election principle in an open, democratic society."

The group said it would file suit in Ramsey County District Court, arguing that the secretary of state's office wrongfully denied its request under Minnesota's data practices laws.

While most of the data requested are publicly available on request, the group acknowledged that it was also seeking less conventional data about voter eligibility and Minnesotans who have not recently cast a vote. Several states are mulling "use it or lose it" laws that would purge infrequent voters from the rolls.

Critics, meanwhile, say these groups are searching for solutions to a nonexistent problem. One 2014 study found that out of 1 billion votes cast between 2000 and 2014, there were only 31 documented incidents of voter fraud.

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