One of 21 states whose elections systems Russian hackers targeted in 2016, Minnesota is still the only one unable to use federal money awarded to improve election security across the country. But an early victory this week in the House has Secretary of State Steve Simon optimistic that he will soon be able to access that money to update the state’s voter registration system, among other upgrades, in what could be one of the first pieces of legislation to reach Gov. Tim Walz’s desk. Two House measures seeking to utilize $6.6 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds made available to the state last year won quick passage in House committee this week. The proposals died last year after being tied up in a broad spending package Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed as part of a feud with legislators.
The bills, whose authors include both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have previously worked together on election security, must still clear another House committee before a floor vote and subsequent Senate consideration. But both House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, have respectively described the legislation as one of the less controversial items that could quickly be taken up this session.