Right now, if a natural disaster or other major issue happens when Minnesotans head out to vote, there’s no emergency plan in place.Minnesota is now one step closer to being prepared for an election day emergency. The Elections Emergency Planning Task Force is a group of 14 members consisted of election officials, and experts when it comes to emergency planning. Over the course of six meetings last year, they made a few recommendations.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
With most of Wabasha County’s voting machines about to turn eight years old, Wabasha County Auditor/Treasurer Denise Anderson isn’t taking any chances. Anderson is urging cities and townships to start squirreling away money for when it’s time to replace the machines. “I’ve asked them to start putting money away now, because I feel there is not going to be any (state or federal) money when we need it,” she said. Wabasha County is far from alone when it comes to aging voting machines. A recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice found that 43 states will be using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old in 2016 — including Minnesota.
It’s been more than a decade since the Help America Vote Act, which pumped federal dollars into states to upgrade their voting equipment to avoid a repeat of the disastrous problems of the 2000 election. Now, that equipment is starting to show signs of age. Local governments are starting to think about replacing it in the next few years — this time, without federal help. Sherburne County is the first area county to do so. On Tuesday, the county board voted to accept a bid from Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems for about $490,000 for a countywide upgrade of election equipment in time for the 2016 election.
Minnesota’s aging voting machines are wearing out and will soon need to be replaced. That’s the message Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he heard “loud and clear” from local officials during his recently completed tour of all 87 Minnesota counties. Most cities, counties and townships use electronic election equipment that is at least 10 years old and getting close to its “10- to 15-year useful lifespan — and 15 is sort of a stretch,” Simon said in a recent interview. There’s a growing risk the voting machines will fail or crash, resulting in lost votes or long lines at polling places. “I’m hearing loudly and clearly from election administrators and others concerned about elections that this is an issue we need to address sooner rather than later and not wait until it becomes a crisis — and they need help,” Simon said.
In what turned out to be one of the most hotly debated issues on this year’s ballot, Duluthians sent a strong message Tuesday in favor of their current voting system.Voters resoundingly rejected a citywide referendum that called for a shift to a ranked-choice voting system. The city of Duluth’s tally showed 15,564 “no” votes to 5,271 “yes” votes. The ballot initiative, which called for a change in the way Duluth has voted for more than a century, sharply divided local leaders and led to aggressive campaigning by supporters and detractors alike.
Duluth citizens go to the polls on Nov. 3 to elect city council members and a new mayor. But the hottest race isn’t over a political office. It’s over how future city elections should take place. Duluth voters will decide whether to follow in the footsteps of Minneapolis and St. Paul and adopt ranked-choice voting. Ranked-choice voting lets citizens choose up to three candidates and rank them first, second and third among all the candidates in an election.
Without much organized opposition, supporters have been campaigning to adopt ranked choice voting in Duluth, but on Sunday, a citizen group announced it has launched a formal effort to oppose the ballot measure. Five city councilors announced last week that they opposed ranked choice voting and all are now members of a citizen group against a switch to ranked choice for mayoral and some city council seats. The “Keep Voting Simple — Vote No RCV Campaign” gathered on the Duluth City Hall steps to give remarks and field questions from reporters. Among those speakers, Mayor Don Ness who said, the current voting system is working for the city.
When Andrew Degerstrom was a University of Minnesota student in 2009, he didn’t vote in that year’s elections because he didn’t know they were taking place. He said he probably would have voted if he had been given voter registration information when he moved to Minneapolis. Landlords will soon be required to provide their tenants with voter registration information when they move in under a new ordinance the Minneapolis City Council passed last week. “If this ordinance had been in effect at that time, I would’ve received information on registering to vote when I moved in, and I most likely would have [voted],” said Degerstrom, who is the president of the East Isles Residents Association. Degerstrom testified in support of the ordinance at a council committee meeting earlier this month.
While Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon touted the state’s voter turnout during an address in St. Cloud, he said there are still many barriers that need to be removed to make voting more accessible. Simon spoke Thursday night at the Stearns History Museum at the St. Cloud State Social Studies Fall Social and Constitution Day Celebration. While addressing the crowd of 30 people, Simon gave a nod to how active Minnesotans are in going to the polls. “Over the past several decades we have proven to the nation we are one of the leaders in the country when it comes to voting and what I mean by that is we turn out in big numbers,” Simon said. “I like to say, in Olympics terms, we’re always on the medal stand. We’re almost always gold, silver or bronze.”
In most U.S. states, a typical 16-year-old can drive a car, get married, hold a job and pay taxes on the income they earn from that job. Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison believes there’s another thing 16-year-olds should be allowed to do: vote. Last week, Ellison tweeted, “I think the voting age should be lowered to 16. What do you think?” It wasn’t the first time he had expressed his view about the voting age; he did so in 2012, also on Twitter. Speaking with MinnPost last week, Ellison says he was inspired to take up the cause a few years ago, recalling a visit with high school students in Minneapolis. “One of the students said to me, ‘How come we can’t vote? We pay sales tax and payroll tax.’ I said, it makes a lot of sense to me. What could go wrong if 16-year-olds could vote? A lot could go right.” Continued visits with high school students have shored up that point of view: Ellison says he is frequently impressed by the knowledge of high school students, adding that they sometimes know more about the issues than adults.