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GOP candidate wants 'voter ID' system

Dan 'Doc' Severson is running for the Secretary of State seat.

A simple request to add his nickname to the ballot for the upcoming state elections has garnered GOP Secretary of State candidate Dan "Doc" Severson more attention than he could have imagined.

But according to Severson, it's not the kind of attention he wants.

"My desire is to just talk about the issues," Severson said during a brief stop in Detroit Lakes Friday, just before making the rounds at the Becker County Fair.

Severson said he would prefer to focus on issues like voter identification, which he feels is an imperative in both this and future elections.

But unfortunately, he added, those who oppose his candidacy have decided that rather than attack his position on issues that matter, they would "attack the person" instead.

"It's a personal attack," he said.

Severson, a four-term state representative from Sauk Centre, Minn., has decided to pursue a different office in this year's election -- the Secretary of State's office, currently held by Democrat Mark Ritchie.

When he filed for candidacy earlier this summer, he asked that his nickname, "Doc" -- which was his call sign when he served as an F/A-18 Hornet pilot in the U.S. Navy -- be included on the ballot.

But that request was disputed by a Sartell woman, who filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court in late June, requesting that Severson's name appear on the ballot only as Daniel or Dan.

She claimed that Severson's request to include his nickname on the ballot was "dishonest," because he had not done so in any of his previous campaigns for the Minnesota House. She claimed that it was an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in the election.

Severson, meanwhile, said the addition of the nickname this year was due to the fact that he was in a statewide race for the first time, and wanted to distinguish himself from other Dan Seversons in Minnesota.

In Friday's interview, Severson said he felt the lawsuit was at least in part an attempt to divert his campaign focus from the real issues at hand -- such as voter identification.

Severson said he first had the voter I.D. issue brought to his attention in the 2008 elections, when "we had hundreds of felons that were able to vote ... yet only 28 percent of the country's deployed military personnel "were able to cast a vote that counted.

"We had literally thousands more ballots than we had signatures (from registered voters)," he added.

Severson's inability, even as a sitting legislator, to get the answers he wanted regarding allegations of illegal voting was a big impetus behind his decision to run for Secretary of State.

"The whole issue is about bringing integrity into the election system," he said, adding that voter I.D. would have the side benefit of streamlining the election process, increasing the privacy of ballots, and even cutting costs to counties, by cutting back on the need for paper documentation.

And with over a half million voter registrations taking place on Election Day in 2008, the need to streamline the identification process has become greater than ever, Severson added.

Requiring photo identification to access ballots would also have the benefit of reducing the number of people who were able to vote using a voucher system -- a rare practice where any registered voter can vouch for up to 15 other people, enabling them to vote on election day.

While at least one other state, Iowa, does employ a similar practice, they only allow voters to vouch for one other person at the polls.

Eliminating the voucher system will go a long way toward restoring voter confidence, Severson believes.

"If Minnesota voters have confidence in the system, they will vote," he said. "If they think there's cheating or shenanigans going on, they're more likely not to vote."

Severson also noted that in a 2006 Peu Poll, 80 percent of Minnesotans polled were in favor of voter I.D.

Ultimately, he feels, implementing voter I.D. at the polls would increase participation, while ensuring election integrity.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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