DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has given Republicans virtual veto power over changes to Minnesota’s election laws, which could doom Democratic proposals to advance early voting. Although Democrats control the Legislature and have offered support for early voting, the governor of their own party has pledged not to sign any election measure that lacks “broad bipartisan support.” So far, Republicans have been cool to the idea of letting voters go to polling places before Election Day. “Any changes in election laws need broad bipartisan support so, to be honest, I haven’t looked into the details of each of the proposals yet because I’m waiting to see if anything is going to move forward on that basis,” Dayton said this week. “If it has that bipartisan support, that’s a pretty good indicator that it is good for Minnesota, good for election participation and protects the integrity, both of which are laudable goals,” he said, explaining the standard he has held since he took office. That is an unusual dictum at a time when election procedures have become sharply partisan, bringing political parties repeatedly to courts around the country to fight out who, when and how people can vote.
“It is a way of tamping down the voting wars, by saying, ‘You guys better get your act together, or there’s not going to be any chance,’ ” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Hasen said the most states that have adopted election overhauls have done so when one party is in control of the governor’s office and the Legislature. Although there is one-party control in Minnesota, that’s no guarantee of success given Dayton’s standard. The governor’s rule, which extends to all election measures but not to other issues, comes as early voting has gained in popularity across the country. It also has support of a majority of Minnesota voters.