Minnesota’s first big run with no-excuse absentee voting has some lawmakers setting their sights on a more-expansive form of early balloting for future elections. Legislation moving in the Minnesota Senate would establish an early voting window 15 days before an election when polling places would be open, including on Saturdays. The period would close three days prior to the scheduled election. But the bill faces a tougher course in the House, where a key Republican says his colleagues aren’t inclined to pursue another significant voting change so soon. Last year was the first statewide election where voters could request and cast an absentee ballot without a qualified excuse. In the end, there were 55 percent more absentee ballots cast in 2014 compared with the midterm election of 2010. New Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, said it’s a sign people crave opportunities to vote at their convenience.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
If a Minnesota state senator gets his wish, a faceless and nameless force would give political candidates extra reason to sweat at election time. They’d have to compete against “None of the Above,” with the threat of a new election featuring all-new candidates if that option prevails. GOP Sen. Branden Petersen’s proposal is certainly a longshot, even by his own admission. But he’s hoping the bill he introduced last week at least stirs some serious talk and gives frustrated voters an idea to rally around. “This would give people an opportunity to really make a strong statement in rebuke of the present dynamic. It would be an honest check on the two-party system,” said the first-term senator from Andover who at times has clashed openly with his own party. “This gives people a chance to legitimately voice their opinion.” The proposal so far has been met with eye rolls and good-natured pokes.
A Senate committee Thursday passed a bill that would restore voting rights to former felony offenders in Minnesota as soon as they’re released from incarceration. Currently an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans who’ve been released from jails or prisons aren’t allowed to vote because they’re on probation. Some went straight to probation and lost their voting privileges for long periods of time. “How can you explain to people that they pay their taxes and they can’t vote?” asked Demetria, one of many who lined up outside the hearing room at the State Capitol.
The Minnesota Senate subcommittee on elections approved legislation Thursday that would allow people to vote beginning 15 days before Election Day. Right now, the state has a no-excuse absentee voting system. The only ways to vote absentee are by mail or by visiting a polling place. But if the absentee ballot is cast in person, the voter has to fill out lots of paperwork and the ballot is kept under lock and key until Election Day. Bill sponsor Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said the process is confusing for voters, because they expect to be able to cast a ballot as easily as they would on Election Day.
Minnesota: Renewed push to restore felon voting rights clears first hurdle | Minneapolis Star Tribune
A measure to restore voting rights to felons who have been released from incarceration successfully cleared its first committee hurdle Thursday backed by a broad coalition of support. Dozens packed the hearing room in support of the bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, that would change state law to allow conflicted felons to vote immediately after they’re released from prison or the workhouse, rather than when they’ve completed the terms of their probation or parole—a process that can take years, if not decades. Although an effort years in the making–this year’s push has seen new support from conservative and libertarian causes, bolstering GOP support. Walter Hudson, vice chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, said that prison inmates should be denied the right to vote, just as they should be denied a multitude of other rights, but that shouldn’t apply once they are released back into the community, he said. “Participation in the political process conveys a sense of belonging and investment in the community which those seeking reconciliation ought to have,” he said.
Absentee voting procedures available to military members called to service by the president could soon be extended to members of the Minnesota National Guard. There’s currently a difference in absentee voting rights between National Guard members who are called to service by a governor and members called to service by the president. National Guard members called up for federal service can receive their ballot in some circumstances by email and do not need a witness for their absentee ballot.
An unusual alliance of some of the state’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers at the Capitol this year are supporting an effort that would allow convicted felons to vote once they leave prison. Under Minnesota law, convicted felons are only eligible to vote after they’ve completed all terms of their sentences — including probation or supervised release. Bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Bobbie Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow convicted felons to vote after finishing their prison sentences. It would restore voting rights to an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans. On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats joined together at a press conference to tout the effort. Joining them were representatives from the Restore the Vote Coalition, which is comprised of more than 60 organizations that include public safety groups, churches and civil rights organizations.
Two weeks into his term as Minnesota’s new secretary of state, Steve Simon has a goal to make voting as easy as possible for the state’s residents. Simon, a former DFL legislator from Hopkins, in 2014 helped bring about no-excuse absentee voting, which he said has been a huge success. He said there was a 55 percent increase in people utilizing absentee voting during the election in 2014 when compared to 2010, another non-presidential election year. With no-excuse absentee voting passed, he is now focusing on implementing what he calls “true early voting.” Simon said under absentee voting, voters place their vote in an envelope and either mail or bring it into the Freeborn County Courthouse, where it remains locked up until the election and is then counted.
MNVotes, the new website launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, makes it easier than ever to vote in the Nov. 4 elections. Minnesotans can register online, request absentee ballots, find their polling places and more. The website has a new look and functionality to allow voters to better access and interact with voter tools and information on their computers, tablets and mobile phones. “The enhanced functionality provides voters with an easier way to connect and engage with our voter resources and information,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is stepping down in January after two terms in office, leaving behind a more modernized office and a tenure marked by conflict with the Legislature. He wants to let a “new generation of leadership” onto the scene, he said, but he’s not leaving due to a lack of energy. “He gets up really early in the morning and goes, goes, goes, goes,” said Dale Wiehoff, Ritchie’s former colleague and vice president for communications at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “He’s very engaged in whatever conversation he’s in.” Ritchie’s tenure has spanned a period of change and political contention for the secretary of state’s office, which is tasked with overseeing elections and business registration. Because of his initiatives over the past eight years, both voters and businesses can register with the state online.