In St. Paul, there are only a few areas where bipartisanship is not just a lofty goal, it’s a requirement. That includes any changes lawmakers want to make to the state’s election and voting systems. Gov. Mark Dayton, like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has said he’ll only sign election-related bills if the proposals have broad support from legislators in both parties — no matter who’s in power. It’s a tradition that some say has bolstered Minnesota’s strong election system, which has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation and few instances of fraud. The rule has also influenced the measures moving through the Legislature this year, with the Republicans who control both chambers ditching proposals that have been controversial in the past — like voter ID — and advancing a list of changes to the state’s election system that have broad support. Well, mostly. As Secretary of State Steve Simon says: “I would say there is work that has yet to be done to get the bipartisan support necessary for the governor’s signature.”
Simon is pushing back on a provision in the state Senate’s elections bill that would establish a provisional balloting system in Minnesota.
Under current law, Minnesotans can lose their eligibility to vote if they’re convicted of a felony, live in the state illegally or are declared legally incompetent by the courts. Various state departments collect those names and send them to the Secretary of State’s office, which compiles a list. If someone challenges a voter’s eligibility at the ballot box, the voter can “self-certify” in front of an election judge, which is essentially taking an oath that they are indeed eligible to vote. Lying during that process is considered a felony. Those self-certified ballots are then tossed in with the rest of the ballots.