MINNEAPOLIS – DFL incumbent Steve Simon and GOP challenger Kim Crockett, who are running oversee the administration of Minnesota's elections, squared off in their first debate Sunday.
As the two contrasted their vision for the office of the secretary of state, only Simon said he would abide by the outcome, while Crockett did not commit to accepting the results.
WCCO Radio moderator Blois Olson asked of both candidates: "Are you confident in the administration of the 2022 election we are currently having and will you accept the results?"
Simon responded by saying "yes and yes." Crockett then explained that she is running because of the "real concerns" of voters and that the administration of elections could use improvement.
"We aren't there yet. We're weeks out. And we'll just have to see what happens between now in the certification of the election," she said. "But, you know, election laws are designed to be final and that's what happens. Somebody gets certified, we go on, we govern, and we go to the next election."
Simon is running for his third term as secretary of state and doubled down that Minnesota's elections are safe and secure in the hour-long debate Sunday. He pushed back on baseless claims from Crockett that the 2020 election was "rigged," casting her views as being motivated by "hyper-partisanship and increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories."
"It's irresponsible. It's disqualifying," Simon said. "That's not just a shade of gray. It's an outright condemnation of our system and it's totally misplaced and it's wrong."
Crockett, meanwhile, raised some concerns about the state's voting process and said she wants the legislature to consider changes. She supports policies she believes will boost confidence in elections, including voter ID, implementing provisional ballots for people who register to vote on Election Day and shrinking the 46-day early voting period.
"Voting is how we consent to be governed even when the people we voted for do not win," Crockett said. "It is easier to accept elections when we feel certain that the process was fair."
That same survey of registered voters found 83% have high or moderate confidence that votes in the 2022 election will be counted accurately. Thirteen percent said they had "not much" confidence and 2% said they had none.
Crockett criticized private money from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to support the 2020 elections during the pandemic, while Simon said the funds were used in a nonpartisan way for administrative purposes during a "very, very difficult time." She also denounced a court order that relaxed some absentee ballot rules because of COVID.
"Mr. Simon is not listening to voters who want to strike a better balance between ballot security and convenience," Crockett said. "All they're asking for are common sense changes."
Simon supports changes to the state's "motor voter law," which asks Minnesotans if they want to register to vote when they're applying for their driver's license or other identification cards. He thinks there should be automatic voter registration so instead of an "opt-in" option, Minnesotans should check a box if they don't want to be registered.
He also touted the state's high voter turnout—even during the pandemic—and praised procedures in place to ensure accuracy, including required testing of voting systems in public view. State law requires these tests in all election jurisdictions 14 days prior to the election.
"Pushing back on this dangerous disinformation is one of the big parts of my job right now, fortunately, or unfortunately, and it's important to do whether it's a national figure or my opponent in this race," Simon said.
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