Minnesota’s first big run with no-excuse absentee voting has some lawmakers setting their sights on a more-expansive form of early balloting for future elections. Legislation moving in the Minnesota Senate would establish an early voting window 15 days before an election when polling places would be open, including on Saturdays. The period would close three days prior to the scheduled election. But the bill faces a tougher course in the House, where a key Republican says his colleagues aren’t inclined to pursue another significant voting change so soon. Last year was the first statewide election where voters could request and cast an absentee ballot without a qualified excuse. In the end, there were 55 percent more absentee ballots cast in 2014 compared with the midterm election of 2010. New Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, said it’s a sign people crave opportunities to vote at their convenience.
“Voting is not a one-shot deal anymore where it’s one designated Tuesday, 13 hours a day and that’s it,” Simon said Thursday after testifying before a Senate subcommittee that endorsed the early-voting plan. “I think the difference now is we have the experience of no-excuses absentee, which was a huge success.”
Citing calculations from a past proposal, Simon said election administrators can save $4 a ballot by allowing a true early voting window because they wouldn’t have the paperwork, postage and processing considerations that go along with absentees. With absentee voting, he said the typical ballot requires nine steps. Early voting cuts that down because the ballot is fed immediately into a counting machine.