The raft of DFL-backed elections changes expected this session started trickling in Thursday as Rep. Steve Simon moved forward with a bill that would allow voters to cast an absentee ballot for any reason. Current state law requires people who vote by absentee to have an excuse for why they can’t show up at their polling place in person on Election Day. Simon’s bill would remove that provision and also permit voters to apply for ongoing or permanent absentee status, which would require the state to mail them an absentee ballot before each election. The measure marks a move toward some form of expanded early-voting procedures, which are currently employed by 32 states. Simon said Minnesota’s law is difficult to enforce right now.
“We have no one who is the ‘absence police’ out there,” Simon said during Thursday’s House Elections Committee. Most Minnesotans, he said, know people who don’t obey the law in its current form.
He cited a statistic from Edina to prove his point: About a quarter of registered voters there used absentee balloting in the 2008 presidential election. “I have a hard time believing they were all on a business trip that day,” Simon joked.
Legislators didn’t appear perturbed by the fibs voters told to use absentee balloting for convenience, and Simon said one of his main concerns is to ensure the average citizen isn’t made into a criminal.