On the heels of a failed Republican-backed constitutional amendment that would have required Minnesotans to present photo identification at the polls, Democrats in the Minnesota Senate have introduced legislation designed to make voting easier through early voting. Under the proposed Senate omnibus elections bill, eligible Minnesota voters could begin casting their ballots 15 days before Election Day. The new early voting window would close on the Friday before the election. The sweeping bill also would allow more people to vote by absentee ballot without having to state a reason why they can’t vote in person at their neighborhood polling place on Election Day. So far, however, the proposed election chances have yet to receive any Republican support, which could be the key to their becoming law. Even though Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has said he will sign election bills only if they have bipartisan support.
The bill’s chief author, state Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, told members of the Senate rules committee Monday that early voting would simplify the election system. “Early voting saves costs for local election administrators, and I think it adds the convenience that Minnesotans want in terms of being able to vote at a time that is more convenient,” Sieben said.
The so-called “no excuse” absentee voting in the bill would follow the same schedule currently in law and allow residents of more small cities to move to vote by mail. State Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said voters are busy people, and they want options.