Minnesota’s voting equipment is aging out, and without legislative help, the burden of about $28 million in replacement costs will fall squarely on cities and counties. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met Monday with the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools to drum up support for a state-funded solution to voting infrastructure now more than a decade old. He’s not asking for the Legislature to foot the bill for the entire cost, rather follow Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal calling for a 50-50 split between the state and local governments. Covering half the cost — about $14 million — would keep the state on pace with efforts in Maryland and Michigan. “We think local government should have some skin in the game,” Simon said during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
Local lawmakers say they would support efforts to allow voters to physically cast their ballot more than a week ahead of Election Day. State law allows counties to give voters the option of casting an absentee ballot in person within seven days of the election. Legislators said the process was popular in the 2016 election in Washington County and the county saved taxpayer money by not having to process as many absentee ballots the traditional way. They agreed it should be expanded, suggesting a 14-day window. It’s another way to get more people voting, said Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park. “Whatever we can do (to increase participation), I’m for,” Schoen said.
On Jan. 1, Minnesota joins the majority of U.S. states in choosing its presidential candidates in primary elections. Minnesota has used caucuses to choose presidential candidates throughout its voting history, save for three elections. While the first presidential primary under the new law won’t be held until March 2020, the system officially goes on the books Jan. 1, 2017. The shift from a caucus system to primaries is the most notable of the new laws taking effect in Minnesota at the change of the year. The others deal with minor changes to workers’ compensation and life insurance laws that won’t much affect the general public.
Starting with the 2020 presidential race, Minnesota will replace its caucus system with a primary election. The change will allow Minnesotans to vote all day instead of having to show up at a specific time on a precinct caucus night. March 3, 2020 is the date set for the first presidential primary, unless an agreement is reached by state leaders to change the date. The state’s political parties may still choose to hold caucuses, and the primary election for other federal, state and local office will continue to be held in August. Over the past few presidential election years, Minnesota’s caucus system has been criticized by some as a means for the parties to prevent some people from engaging in voting for lesser-known candidates or those not supported by party leadership. The caucus format also was viewed as less-accessible for some voters: instead of having a full day to vote, people were required to show up to their precinct caucus during a specific window of time if they wanted their vote counted. Long lines and limited space in many of the caucus locations frustrated many voters and were viewed as a way for party elites to “skew” election turnout.
A group that has repeatedly challenged Minnesota’s elections process says several election judges — including three it is joining in a new lawsuit — are refusing to follow their duties at polling places because they disagree with how the state checks voters’ eligibility. The Minnesota Voters Alliance filed lawsuits last week in Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties with election officials from each area, contending that the secretary of state’s office is not doing enough to block ineligible voters, including felons, noncitizens and people considered wards of the state because of their developmental disabilities or other issues. The cases, which have been combined and will be heard by a Ramsey County judge on Friday, largely mirror a lawsuit the group filed earlier this year with the Minnesota Supreme Court. In that matter, the state’s highest court determined that it was not the proper jurisdiction to hear the case and sent it back to district court, where it has not yet been settled. In the meantime, with Election Day approaching, leaders of the Minnesota Voters Alliance decided to move forward with another lawsuit. Erick Kaardal, the attorney representing the group, said he received calls from election judges concerned about the potential for allowing felons to vote.
Minnesota: Secretary of State wants Minnsota to reclaim top spot in voter turnout | Minneapolis Star Tribune
Secretary of State Steve Simon wants to make Minnesota No. 1 again — in voter turnout, that is. Simon, the state’s top elections official, has been barnstorming the state in recent months, promoting his voting effort so that Minnesota can reclaim its top spot nationally for civic engagement. For nearly 10 elections in a row, Minnesota had bragging rights, ranking first among all states for its voter turnout rate. That was until 2014. About half of eligible voters cast ballots that year, making Minnesota No. 6, falling behind states like Wisconsin, Maine and Oregon. In 2012 — during President Obama’s re-election — more than 75 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
Minnesota: State Supreme Court dismisses voting rights case from conservative group | Star Tribune.com
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a challenge from a conservative group seeking changes to how voter eligibility disputes over possible felony convictions are resolved during elections. In a 14-page ruling, justices said the lawsuit, filed by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, must first be heard in lower courts. “The broad-ranging challenges alleged here, which respondents dispute, should be addressed first in the district court, where any factual disputes can be fully litigated and resolved,” the court wrote in its opinion.
Donald Trump will be on Minnesota’s ballot this November, despite a DFL Party legal maneuver to try to keep him off. In a six-page decision issued Monday afternoon, the state Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed last week in which DFL leaders argued that the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, should not be listed on the ballot because Republicans had not properly selected alternate electors. The court said the DFL waited too long to lodge its objections to what it characterized as a technical error. The DFL had argued that Secretary of State Steve Simon should not have accepted the GOP’s “certificate of nomination” for Trump and Pence because Republicans had missed one required step at their party’s convention last spring — selecting 10 alternate electors for the presidential race. GOP leaders selected the electors in August, after discovering the problem, but state law requires that the selection be made at political parties’ conventions.
An extraordinary request to exclude Republican nominee Donald Trump from the Minnesota ballot sparked sharp words Friday and a swift timetable for the Minnesota Supreme Court to consider the Democratic petition. At least 1 million Minnesota ballots have already been printed, according to one legal filing. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin and his lawyers urged Trump’s removal from the ballot in a filing Thursday, arguing that state Republicans didn’t follow the law for submitting his candidate paperwork. Republican Party Chair Keith Downey shot back that the case was frivolous. “Donald Trump got on our ballot fair and square, and it is outrageous that the Democrat Party would actually try to rig the election this way,” Downey said in a written statement. “It sure smells bad when the Democrat Party petitions the Democrat Secretary of State to remove the Republican candidate from the presidential ballot.”
As more and more of our world goes digital, what important system relies on paper records any more? Democracy, for one. The heart of Minnesota’s plan to safeguard the 2016 election from hackers and fraudsters is a sheet of paper that people mark with a pen. No matter what happens to voting tabulators or election databases, officials can count those piles of paper ballots. “It’s ironic, isn’t it?” said Secretary of State Steve Simon, who will be on the hot seat if anything goes haywire on Nov. 8. After serving a decade as a legislator, the DFLer was elected to the Secretary of State’s office in 2014. Simon took over from fellow DFLer Mark Ritchie, who presided over two statewide election recounts that featured long and contentious sessions of shuffling and perusing thousands of paper ballots. “We really do have a culture here when it comes to election law of really relying on paper, and thank God for it,” Simon said last week. “We did not in Minnesota get distracted by the shiny object 15 or so years ago and go to touch-screen only with no receipt printouts or paper trail.”