Minnesota GOP grapples with discrepancies in nightly caucus attendance

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The Minnesota Republican Party is facing discrepancies in key data from its recent precinct caucuses, creating chaos even as local conventions are supposed to begin on Friday.

Some gubernatorial and secretary of state candidates are calling for an audit and postponement of party conventions while the data is sorted.

Former GOP operative Michael Brodkorb said the state party released a new batch of campaign data on Friday showing there were 35,196 caucus attendees, but with 99% reporting from precincts, only 17,801 people cast ballots in the Feb. 1 straw poll for governor, prompting campaigns to question the results.

Normally, the number of caucus participants and mock poll voters is comparable.

“It makes no sense,” Brodkorb said in an interview. “This is not a unique case.”

The disarray needs to be sorted out quickly as the local conventions are supposed to start soon. Attendees at those conventions will determine who will be delegates to the state’s GOP convention in May, when the party meets to endorse a candidate for governor and other statewide positions.

Shortly after Brodkorb tweeted about the issue on Saturday, Lucas Baker, the state’s Republican Party political director, sent an email to candidates and campaigns acknowledging the problem with their precinct caucus data. and saying they were looking into it, Brodkorb said.

Republican party officials in the state did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The issues threaten to upend the Republican Party’s emphasis on ‘election integrity’, which has been supercharged by misguided claims by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that the 2020 election was stolen from him. .

North Oaks dermatologist Neil Shah, gubernatorial candidate, now calls for a “full forensic audit” of GOP caucus data – which he says is “full of serious errors” – and publication original caucus room delegate sign-in sheets.

Republican candidate for Secretary of State Kelly Jahner-Byrne said she also supports suspending local conventions while checking voter rolls.

“Simply put, election integrity starts at home,” she said in a statement. “In this case, it should start with the Minnesota Republican Party. I would be remiss as a candidate for Secretary of State for not taking a critical and analytical look at my own party list.

She called it a “totally absurd” debacle, saying that in more than 25 years as a business executive, she had never seen such an “epic data management failure”.

Shah claims in a press release that the number of caucus attendees reported was a factor of 40 or more, with thousands of entries from previous election cycles included and names that did not match addresses, phone numbers, emails or delegate status. .

Shah said his delegates were seeing widespread discrepancies across the state and demanded that local conventions that were scheduled to begin on Friday be postponed until March to allow time for an audit of delegate sign-up sheets used on caucus night. The race would normally begin once the legislative and congressional redistricting maps are released on Tuesday. But the GOP won’t be ready to give candidates data to blend into the new maps so organizing can begin. Brodkorb said this delayed the party for a few weeks, at the worst possible time.

“These campaigns are just dead in the water now,” he said. “They can’t go anywhere… While it’s time to clean this up, they’re running out of time.”

Since the party is unable to provide voter names that will determine party endorsements, Brodkorb said several campaigns may decide to bypass party endorsement and go straight to primary elections in August.

Previously, nearly all Republican gubernatorial candidates had agreed to abide by party endorsement and subsequently drop out.

Brodkorb said the snafu creates a problem of hypocrisy for the party, given all the GOP energy surrounding the alleged voter fraud.

“The problem here, long term, is that they have an electoral integrity problem. So all the rants … about election integrity and the big lie … are now in their wheelhouse,” he said.

Shah made an accusation against a member of gubernatorial candidate Paul Gazelka’s staff, saying she deliberately omitted a significant number of delegates and added names of people to the list of delegates who did not attend the caucus of Morrison County, although attendance is required to be considered a delegate.

“The evidence of widespread error and manipulation makes the possibility of free and fair deals highly unlikely unless a full forensic audit takes place,” Shah said.

Brodkorb said Monday that about 26 pockets in the state have not reported their caucus data, including St. Louis County, where a convention is scheduled to take place this weekend. This means campaigns won’t have time to target voters without complete lists.

Brodkorb said that when campaigns started combing through the data over the weekend, they started seeing formatting errors — like “someone tampered with the data” — and that led to a call with all statewide campaigns Saturday night. At this point, there was a collegial drive to clean up the data, he said.

Another call was held with the state party on Monday, Brodkorb said, and after that Shah made his Morrison County allegation.

“It metastasized even more,” he said.

So far, only Shah’s campaign has made accusations of intentional errors, so Brodkorb said he believes most of the errors were unintentional. Due to the lack of data security, he said, it is possible that “mistakes” happened on caucus night.

“There could be real attempts at campaigns to change, change, adjust the lists of delegates,” he said. “It’s an absolute possibility.”

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