More than a hundred absentee voters who registered at the address of a mailbox center in Cedar-Riverside will have to re-register under their home addresses — a decision that follows a stir in the Somali community regarding legal voting practices. At an administrative hearing on Thursday, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office announced that the case of 141 improperly registered voters was not an intentional or organized effort, dismissing allegations of voter fraud. The hearing came about two weeks after the attorney’s office was prompted to investigate the incident by a petition filed by a lawyer for Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
Minnesotans will no longer have to stretch the truth to get an absentee ballot. A new law, approved overwhelmingly last year, will allow voters to request absentee ballots regardless of whether they can get to their polling places on Election Day. The program, coupled with online tools that will let voters register online and check the status of their ballots, is part of a nationwide movement to make voting easier. Minnesota’s law doesn’t go as far as those in some states, where vote-by-mail and early voting have become commonplace, but its supporters say the changes will help the state maintain its best-in-the-nation turnout status. “I think anything that permits more people to vote, as long as they are doing so lawfully, is a boon,” said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. “The more people who will vote, the better off we’ll be.”
Minnesota voters can now request an absentee ballot online at mnvotes.org through a new tool launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. The service allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot quickly and easily without the need to print, scan forms, and return by mail, fax or email. A similar tool for military and overseas voters was introduced in September 2013. Voters may request an absentee ballot for both the August 12 Primary Election and November 4 General Election. Ballots for those elections will be mailed when they become available on June 27 and September 19, respectively.
A Minnesota judge has temporarily blocked a Minnesota campaign contribution law in light of an April ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. United States District Judge Donovan Frank ruled a group of plaintiffs challenging Minnesota’s ban on large-dollar donations from so-called “special sources” has a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim,” and ruled Minnesota can’t enforce the law as the case works through the judicial system. The special-sources law limits the amount of money candidates can receive from PACs, lobbyists and “large contributors,” individuals who give more than more than half the base contribution limits for state races (the base limits are $4,000 for a gubernatorial candidate and $1,000 for a House race this cycle). Under the law, gubernatorial candidates can only receive $730,200 from these sources, and state House candidates, $12,500. Once a candidate hits that cap, PAC and lobbyist money is banned and individuals are restricted to giving half the base contribution limit.
Minnesota: Lawmakers move to preserve online voter registration system after judge voided existing portal | Associated Press
Before a court order can kick in, Minnesota lawmakers moved Tuesday to preserve an online voter registration system overseen by the secretary of state. The Senate approved a bill authorizing the new registration system on a 41-24 vote, sending the measure already passed by the House to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democrat signed the bill, which will take effect Wednesday. On Monday, a Ramsey County judge ruled Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had overstepped his bounds by establishing the virtual sign-up unilaterally last fall. The judge ordered that the system be shut down by midnight Tuesday, absent legislative intervention. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said lawmakers should be working to ease the process of voting through new technology. ”Voters across Minnesota want the convenience of being to register online,” she said.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie must immediately shut down the online voter registration system he launched last year because he lacked the authority to create it, a Ramsey County judge decided Monday. Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann said Ritchie had until midnight on Tuesday to close the system and confirm that he had done so by Wednesday. More than 3,600 Minnesotans have taken advantage of online registration. Guthmann said his order “does not invalidate any online voter registration accepted before midnight on April 29, 2014.” Guthmann said he also was making no determination on whether online registration was a good idea. Instead, he wrote, “sole question presented herein is whether Respondent had the legal authority to do what he did.”
Minnesota: Campaign Finance Lawsuits In Minnesota And Other States Take Aim At Contribution Limits | Twin Cities Business
Minnesota is the latest front in what has developed into a national fight over federal and state campaign finance laws whose ultimate target may be the laws restricting how much individuals can give to political campaigns. Last week, a group of citizens and lawmakers filed suit [PDF] against one of Minnesota’s campaign finance laws limiting the number of big-dollar donations candidates can receive from so-called “special sources”—political action committees, lobbyists and donors willing to make the biggest legally permissible contributions to campaigns. The law applies only to state elections, as do many of the other campaign finance lawsuits in the works or on the way (federal candidates are regulated by federal law). The lawsuit came just a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the overall limit on how much donors can give to federal candidates in an election cycle.
The dutiful Washington County voter, having chosen candidates and issues after a few moments of intense concentration in the election booth, steps to the counting machine with ballot in hand only to find a problem. But what? Did the voter “overwrite” the ballot by marking more than one candidate for a race? Or stray across party lines in a primary election? Or fail to mark the vote inside the oval spaces provided, circling them instead? A color screen on the county’s new voting machine indicates an error. Once the nature of the error pops up, the screen gives the voter a simple choice: return the ballot or cast it. In the first instance, the voter could ask an elections judge to destroy the ballot and provide a new one. If the voter chooses to cast the ballot, it would enter the machine and become official, with the part in error discarded.
Lawmakers will likely move forward with limited electronic-pollbook legislation this session, but it appears that the sense of urgency behind the voting technology has faded a bit. A state Senate committee passed legislation on Wednesday — a day after its House counterpart — that came out of a pollbook task force in late January. The task force recommended yet another study of electronic pollbooks during the 2014 mid-term elections and putting standards for pollbooks in state law. The electronic pollbook systems consist of laptops or tablet computers installed with voting administration software that advocates say improves election speed, helps with accuracy and reduces some costs over the current paper pollbooks.
Minnesotans should be able to register to vote online, a bipartisan panel of legislators voted on Tuesday. The House Elections Committee unanimously approved the practice that has been available — with considerable controversy — since last year. “I think it’s an issue that is kind of a no-brainer for the state of Minnesota,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office began accepting online registrations in September, although the law did not specifically permit it. DFLers, Republicans, Gov. Mark Dayton and the nonpartisan legislative auditor have said that the matter should have been approved by the Legislature first. Ritchie said existing law gave him the authority to start registering voters online.