The next presidential election is looming, and those on both sides of the political spectrum are voicing anxieties about the modern electoral process. Through the course of the legislative session, several lawmakers have raised concerns about the changes they see in all elections. When Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, weighed in on recent legislation that would allow high school students to pre-register to vote, he elaborated on the larger political implications of legislation around the country having to do with voter registration. In particular, Anzelc criticized Republican bills aimed at preventing voter fraud. “We just concluded a period where the Republican-leaning members of the Legislature have been interested in making it harder for people to vote because they’re hung up on what they think is voter fraud in the state,” said Anzelc. “I’ve concluded based upon the data I’ve seen there isn’t the level of voter impropriety that they thought there was. So now we may be going into a period where people are promoting voting.”
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
Minnesota: State official raises concerns about aging election equipment | Litchfield Independent Review
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met with Meeker County Auditor Barb Loch on Monday to discuss election-related issues, including concerns about aging election equipment. Simon, who made six stops in the region Monday, said a common concern among local officials is finding money to replace a fleet of election equipment purchased about 10 to 12 years ago with federal funds. Those federal dollars are no longer available, Simon said during an interview after his meeting with Loch. “Now the question is … what can we do to alleviate costs for counties,” he said, adding that he is hoping the state can help pay for new machines, which run as much as $7,000 each.
When Dexter Stanton got out of prison in 2009 after serving time for a felony drunk-driving conviction, he wanted to get involved in the community in a positive way. He volunteered for political campaigns, worked a phone bank, canvassed neighborhoods and was even elected caucus chairman for the local DFL party. What he couldn’t do, however, was vote. “I was a part of the community, and yet I was separate,” Stanton said. “I wasn’t a community member.” Stanton said it doesn’t seem right for someone to be working and paying taxes in the community, but not have a say in decisions. For someone from a family long active in politics, “it was really frustrating,” he said.
Despite a broad coalition of backers and newfound bipartisan support, a measure to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they are released from behind bars once again appears doomed over reluctance from anonymous House lawmakers. The “Restore the Vote” movement appeared to receive new life in the 2015 legislative session, after some Republican lawmakers, along with conservative and libertarian-leaning groups, joined the 13-year-old push for reform. The 47,000 Minnesotans now under post-release supervision are not allowed to vote until they’re “off paper” — a process that can take years. If passed, the measure would put Minnesota in line with 18 other states that grant voting rights to felons on probation or parole.
Minnesota: Backers of measure to restore voting rights to felons push for House hearings | Star Tribune
A widely-supported bipartisan measure to restore voting rights to Minnesota felons once they have been freed from prison has failed to gain traction in the House, leading to protest from supporters and lawmakers who want to know why. The bill, which has cleared committees and made it to the Senate floor, has yet to receive its first hearing in the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, despite the fact that committee chair Rep. Tony Cornish is chief author of the bill. The bill has until a Friday deadline to receive a hearing. Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said last week only that he hoped the bill would receive a hearing.
A coalition of groups working to restore the voting rights of convicted felons is growing concerned about the prospect of passing a bill this session. Legislation allowing felons to vote once they’re out of jail, rather than waiting until they’re off probation, is poised for a floor vote in the Minnesota Senate. But it does not yet have a scheduled hearing in the House. The committee deadline is Friday. During a news conference Wednesday, Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference said the bill enjoys broad bipartisan support.
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.
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.