Who is the Responsible Authority?

Who is the Responsible Authority?
During the limited public comment section, the residents of Sherburne ask for a real discussion to be had about elections in the county on May 3rd, 2022

Takeaway at the top: The County Administrator is the Responsible Authority from whom to request cast vote records (CVR) reports. Feel free to send any denials for 2020 or 2022 elections to erikvanmechelen@protonmail.com with “cvr” in the subject line.

After a county commissioner board meeting in Sherburne County on July 12, 2022, I was chatting with the county administrator who informed me that we were asking for the wrong thing. (Nearby many had gathered around David Maeda of Minnesota’s Office of the Secretary of State who had been granted an agenda item to speak for over 20 minutes on election matters relating to a potential felony that had been committed.)

The county administrator said something like, You are asking for a public hearing but you should be asking for something else. Men and women were coming to the open forum segment of Sherburne’s county commissioner board meetings to speak for a maximum of three minutes on myriad election-related issues (from voter registration to voter validation to tabulation to reporting) because an agenda item had not been granted to properly discuss the matter—by the rules set in Sherburne the open forum speakers are not allowed to ask for anything directly from the commissioners nor are the commissioners to enter into a discussion, even if they are interested.

Recently, as highlighted yesterday, residents in Anoka County are using their newly added public comment section (limited to 2 minutes per speaker), at the end of commissioner meetings, to share new election-related information with their commissioners—see video footage here.

What should we be asking for? (And from whom?)

When the county administrator said we were asking for the wrong thing, I thought, I should like to know what we should be asking for. Because at the time the residents in Sherburne, with whom I'd been going along with to commissioner meetings, had for months been asking for a venue—an agenda item would be appropriate—to share what they'd found, voice their concerns, and ask questions of their county staff, who could after all make a variety of decisions in support of accountability and transparency in the election process.

Was the administrator trying to be helpful? Despite all our time together he had not once to my knowledge suggested this to any of the regular attendees.

I raise this anecdote about the county administrator because not all are aware there is such a role. I wasn't. There are many things about our local Minnesota government I have learned only quite recently.

Only gradually did I learn that in some commissioner meetings the administrator runs the meeting. Which gives them some power. The particular administrator above actually once called the bailiff to remove a speaker who was speaking about free speech. The commissioners and administrator apologized in a subsequent meeting.

But what other function does the administrator serve? Why should you care?

The Responsible Authority

In the topic of elections and data transparency there is one very critical function:

The county administrator is the responsible authority when it comes to cast vote record (CVR) reports, which have largely been wrongfully hidden from the public in almost all Minnesota counties for the 2020 and 2022 elections.

Therefore any public data or public records requests (and CVRs are public election data), should be made to this person because they are the responsible authority.

On the other hand, if one asks for the CVRs from the auditor or elections manager, they could provide you this data, and in my view they should for the sake of transparency (we have step by steps in their own systems to extract the report from their election management systems), but because the auditors and election managers are not the responsible authority, it is not technically speaking their responsibility to help you on the matter of CVRs.

But it is the county administrator’s responsibility.

If you are still seeking these reports for 2020 and 2022, reach out to your county administrator. Remind them that CVR reports are standard on their systems and an audit requirement dating back to 2005 in the EAC’s Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines as well as federally since 2019. This self-auditability may even be referenced in the vendor contracts. (Rick Weible’s Midwest Swamp Watch has additional information—scroll down to “Minnesota Election Transparency” or command/control+F to search “CVR” on the homepage.)

Detailed how-to guides can be found soon on Project Minnesota. Sign up for the free newsletter over there to be notified when those are ready.

Any CVR denials (from the county administrators) may be sent to erikvanmechelen@protonmail.com