Minnesotans will no longer have to stretch the truth to get an absentee ballot. A new law, approved overwhelmingly last year, will allow voters to request absentee ballots regardless of whether they can get to their polling places on Election Day. The program, coupled with online tools that will let voters register online and check the status of their ballots, is part of a nationwide movement to make voting easier. Minnesota’s law doesn’t go as far as those in some states, where vote-by-mail and early voting have become commonplace, but its supporters say the changes will help the state maintain its best-in-the-nation turnout status. “I think anything that permits more people to vote, as long as they are doing so lawfully, is a boon,” said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. “The more people who will vote, the better off we’ll be.”
Minnesota: Lawmakers move to preserve online voter registration system after judge voided existing portal | Associated Press
Before a court order can kick in, Minnesota lawmakers moved Tuesday to preserve an online voter registration system overseen by the secretary of state. The Senate approved a bill authorizing the new registration system on a 41-24 vote, sending the measure already passed by the House to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democrat signed the bill, which will take effect Wednesday. On Monday, a Ramsey County judge ruled Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had overstepped his bounds by establishing the virtual sign-up unilaterally last fall. The judge ordered that the system be shut down by midnight Tuesday, absent legislative intervention. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said lawmakers should be working to ease the process of voting through new technology. “Voters across Minnesota want the convenience of being to register online,” she said.
Minnesotans should be able to register to vote online, a bipartisan panel of legislators voted on Tuesday. The House Elections Committee unanimously approved the practice that has been available — with considerable controversy — since last year. “I think it’s an issue that is kind of a no-brainer for the state of Minnesota,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office began accepting online registrations in September, although the law did not specifically permit it. DFLers, Republicans, Gov. Mark Dayton and the nonpartisan legislative auditor have said that the matter should have been approved by the Legislature first. Ritchie said existing law gave him the authority to start registering voters online.
Minnesota: Dayton says online voter registration system should go through Legislature | Star Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday sided with critics of Minnesota’s new online voter registration system, saying Secretary of State Mark Ritchie should have gotten legislative approval for the system before launch. “It’s a good idea but one that we should get legislative support,” Dayton said when asked about the launch. Since Ritchie launched the website allowing Minnesotans to register to vote last month, he has faced bipartisan and nonpartisan questions about why he did not seek legislative approval. Ritchie has said he has the authority under existing law to make such a change without an explicit go-ahead from the Legislature. Adding his voice to those of Republican leaders, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Katie Sieben and the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles on the issue, Dayton highlighted a rare breach among DFLers on election issues. Ritchie, who is not running for re-election next year, had no comment Tuesday, according to his spokesman, Nathan Bowie.
A photo identification requirement to vote in Minnesota is a contentious issue that could again surface as a newly-formed state task force launches a study of electronic poll book technology. Part of the research will look at the use of photographs as a way to verify voter eligibility. Last fall, Minnesota voters turned down a Republican-backed proposed constitutional amendment to require photo identification at election polls. The task force meets for the first time Tuesday. Electronic poll books are a computer-based alternative to the paper rosters that voters currently sign their name to at polling places on Election Day. Instead of signing in, a voter’s driver’s license or some other identification is swiped by a card reader, and their pre-loaded information is displayed on a computer monitor. The city of Minnetonka tested such technology in recent elections and City Clerk David Maeda said he was pleased with the results.
Both House and Senate omnibus elections bills have hit the House and Senate floors and are open for what promises to be some lively debate. House File 894 is authored by Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins. Senate File 677 is authored by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport. Sieben is also the assistant majority leader in the Senate. Both Simon and Sieben said bipartisan efforts led to the bills speedily going to their respective floors. They are both very aware that Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will only sign an elections bill that is bipartisan. Both expect their bills to be discussed on the floor late next week or the following week.
A measure that would allow Minnesotans to vote early is headed to the floor of the Minnesota House, but it doesn’t appear to be getting the bipartisan support that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said is needed for election law changes. The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the bill today by a vote of 15-12, with all Republicans opposed. The bill allows voters to cast their ballots at centralized polling places during a specified period before Election Day.
Voting Blogs: Early voting legislation biggest response to November lines so far | electionlineWeekly
Following the November election, just about every politician from the president on down vowed to do something about the lines some voters faced during the 2012 general election cycle. Now, with most Legislatures back at work — some have even completed their work for 2013 — altering, or allowing, early voting seems to be the most popular way legislators have chosen to tackle the problems of lines. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures 32 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to cast a ballot in person in advance of an election and Oregon and Washington offer all vote-by-mail thus making early voting a moot point. Of the remaining 16 states that did not offer early voting at the time of the November 2012 general election legislatures in more than half of those states are considering legislation that would allow voters to cast an early ballot. Bipartisan efforts to advance early voting have begun making their way through several statehouses.
Minnesota: DFLers contol Minnesota Capitol but election overhaul ideas need GOP support | StarTribune.com
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.
A Minnesota House panel has advanced a batch of election law changes that for now has some bipartisan support. The bill includes no-excuse absentee voting, higher thresholds for triggering taxpayer-funded recounts, tighter controls over felon voting rights and a reduction in Election Day vouching. It would allow one voter to vouch for a maximum of eight people, down from the current limit of 15. The bill also links the state’s electoral votes for president to the national popular vote winner. The House Elections Committee approved the omnibus bill today on a mostly favorable voice vote, sending it on to the Government Operations Committee.
This may not be the legislative session for substantial election law changes. Senate Democrats moved on an omnibus elections bill in committee this week without any Republican votes, even though Gov. Mark Dayton has maintained his pledge that election legislation must garner broad bipartisan support to secure his signature. It’s unclear how Democrats expect the measure to gain Republican backing going forward. “It gives us a little bit of power, too — almost like a veto,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said on Friday. “If we don’t put any Republican votes up, he’s pledged to veto that stuff.”
A Minnesota House committee is considering a bill that would allow significantly more people to vote by absentee ballot beginning in 2014. Under the measure, eligible voters could get an absentee ballot without stating a reason why they can’t vote in person at their neighborhood polling place on Election Day. Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, told members of the House Election Committee today that his no-excuse absentee voting bill would put Minnesota in line with 27 other states. Simon said the current absentee system is unenforceable.
In late October, two weeks before the election, amid the glut of attack ads, a TV commercial appeared in Minnesota that grabbed everyone’s attention. It opens on former Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, who is a familiar and beloved figure in the state, looking into the camera. “This voter-restriction amendment is way too costly,” he tells viewers. An image of $100 bills flashes to his right. Carlson’s jowls quiver as he solemnly shakes his head. An American flag hangs behind his shoulder. Fade and cut to Mark Dayton, the state’s current governor, a Democrat, on the right half of the screen. “And it would keep thousands of seniors from voting,” Dayton continues, his Minnesota accent especially thick. As he speaks, a black-and-white photo of a forlorn elderly woman appears. In a year when the two parties seemed to agree on little except their mutual distaste for each other, here was a split-screen commercial with a Democrat and a Republican, the only bipartisan TV spot Minnesotans would see. The two trade talking points, Carlson focusing on the financial burden, Dayton highlighting the various groups who would be disenfranchised, until the split screen vanishes, revealing the two governors side by side in front of a painting of the Minnesota Capitol. “If you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent please vote no—this is not good for Minnesota,” Carlson closes.
In Voter ID: Five Considerations – the lead story in the November / December issue of The Canvass – we predicted that interest in photo voter ID laws would remain high in 2013. This prediction has already been borne out. When we drafted the article, lawmakers in Arkansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin had revived discussion of their states’ photo ID proposals. Since then, a number of other states have jumped in the mix. Here’s a quick rundown of some recent developments on the photo ID front. We’ll be back shortly with the second half of the list. Republican Representative Bob Lynn’s photo ID proposal (HB 162) failed to make it to a vote in Alaska last session, when Democrats and Republicans split control of the Legislature. With Republicans holding their lead in the Alaska House and newly in charge of the state Senate, the proposal is sure to get another airing in 2013. Lynn told the Anchorage Daily News that photo ID will “be one of the first bills we hear.”
In the perennial political tug-of-war between ballot security and voting access, the advocates of making voting easier in Minnesota are the big winners. A month after voters shot down the photo ID requirement and the Republican legislative majorities that supported it, the incoming DFL regime at the Capitol has a chance to open up the nation’s highest-turnout voting system even further by allowing more pre-Election-Day voting.
It’s looking possible that early voting will rise from the ashes of the voting amendment in Minnesota. On the surface, early voting, now allowed in 32 states, might seem to represent the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum from requiring all voters to have state-approved photo identification card. Early voting, after all, encourages participation. Critics said that the amendment’s photo ID requirement would suppress participation. But the costly amendment fight did highlight the fact that there’s room for change in Minnesota voting laws. And there was an implied promise among foes of the amendment, which included Gov. Mark Dayton, that the voting amendment should be “sent back to the Legislature” for repair.
Minnesota: Even without photo ID, election system likely to see changes | Minnesota Public Radio News
The defeat of the voter ID constitutional amendment, along with the Legislature’s flip from Republican to Democratic control, is likely put that issue on indefinite hold. But it won’t end the debate over the need for some changes in state election law. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and key lawmakers are already talking about ways to alter the voting system during the 2013 legislative session. The campaign against voter ID relied heavily on a compelling television ad that featured DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson.
Democrat Jim Graves, declared the loser of the 6th Congressional District race against Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, tweeted early Wednesday that a recount is likely. “See you in a few hours,” he said. Graves was trailing Bachmann by about 3,900 votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting on Wednesday morning. The Associated Press called the race for Bachmann just before 4 a.m.
This year, some ballots, like those in Florida, are so long and filled with candidates and issues that elections officials are encouraging voters to vote early to avoid possible lines on Election Day. The issues on the ballot range from gay marriage to gambling to ethics to tax levies. In several states however, the issues on the ballot are the elections themselves. In Minnesota voters will decide whether or not photo ID should be required to cast a ballot in future elections, in Arizona voters will decide whether or not to revamp the state’s entire primary system and in Illinois, residents in East Saint Louis will vote whether or not to eliminate city’s election board.
Most of the argument about whether Minnesota should require separate photo ID cards for people to vote has focused on how much voter fraud occurs in the state. Supporters of voter ID cards say the cards will stop widespread fraud. Opponents say the evidence that shows fraud is almost nonexistent and that the card requirement might keep some people from voting. But Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a DFLer, and some county auditors say there are several other problems with the amendment that most people have never heard of — most notably the cost to taxpayers. Ritchie said the state is in for some major election headaches trying to account for absentee, overseas military and even rural voters who now vote by mail. And he said it virtually will eliminate same-day registration, which has been credited with pushing Minnesota voter participation to among the highest in the nation.
A proposed constitutional amendment that will require voters to show photo ID and make a series of other changes to state elections will be costly to governments and individuals, an anti-ID organization said. The costs to the state for providing free IDs, to local governments for instituting provisional balloting and upgrading technology, and to individuals for obtaining underlying documents such as birth certificates will be significant, said a report from Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota and David Schultz, law professor at Hamline University. Here is the breakdown of costs, according to the group’s report. The state would pay $8.25 million over four years to provide free IDs, as the amendment requires, and a one-time cost of $1.7 to $5.3 million to educate voters about the change. The counties, which administer local elections, would have to spend between $23 million and $53 million to institute a new system of provisional balloting, to provide the technology for instant verification of voters and to convert mail-in voters to in-person voters. Some of these costs would be continuing costs, the report states.
As expected, supporters of the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment have filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to overturn a new title for their proposal that they say is unauthorized and misleading. The move follows similar action by supporters of the other proposed amendment on this fall’s ballot — related to the definition of marriage — after the title of that measure was also changed by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Amendment proponents in both cases argue Ritchie has no authority to interfere with titles selected by the Legislature for questions it presents to voters and that the titles Ritchie picked tend to discourage support for the measures. Both constitutional amendments — one of which would require voters to show photo ID at the polling place and the other of which would define marriage as an opposite-sex union — were placed on the ballot by the Republican-led Legislature. Both are opposed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Minnesota: St. Paul files brief in suit challenging Minnesota Voter ID amendment, wants measure kept off ballot | TwinCities.com
St. Paul has challenged the legality of the constitutional amendment requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls. In a so-called “friend of the court” amicus brief filed to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday, June 18, the city questions the accuracy of the language voters will read if the amendment reaches ballots. It also says Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the bill in April should force the Republican-led Legislature to rewrite the question and the amendment’s title. “The so-called ‘photo ID’ question is not authorized by law and should not be placed on the ballot,” St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing said in a statement. “The Minnesota Supreme Court should order that this bill be sent back to the Legislature for a veto override or further legislative clarification.” The brief, which is for interested groups other than the litigants, is for a lawsuit to keep the proposed amendment off the November ballot. The Supreme Court plans to hear arguments July 17 and expects to rule in time for the ballots to be ready on Nov. 6.
The fight over photo ID requirements for voters is once again finding its way into courts – but this time the issue isn’t about the merits of ID but rather about ballot language putting the question to voters. In Minnesota, voter ID is supposed to be on the November 2012 ballot. After DFL Governor Mark Dayton vetoed ID legislation in 2011, GOP majorities in the Legislature agreed earlier this year to put the question to voters – action that does not require the Governor’s approval. Given that public opinion polls suggest that voters favor ID, supporters are hopeful that voters can provide the energy to push ID past the opposition of the Governor and DFL legislators. As it has in virtually every state, the dispute has sharply – and fiercely – divided the state’s political establishment. Groups across the spectrum have lined up to support and oppose the amendment. There is a chance, however, that voters may not get the chance to have their say. The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments about whether or not the ballot language describing the amendment is sufficient. As the language currently stands, voters will be asked if the state constitution should be amended “to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters”.
Minnesota: Secretary of State Ritchie uses election official role to move headfirst into voter ID battle | StarTribune.com
Thrust into the partisan hothouse of back-to-back statewide recounts, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie went out of his way to take on a referee persona despite the “D” after his name. But on the voter ID constitutional amendment now headed to the November ballot, he’s openly taken a side. Ritchie has steadily increased his opposition as the proposal advanced, to the point of arguing it will deprive voters of their rights. In the process, he has drawn blowback from Republicans and other supporters of the voting-law change, who accuse the state’s top elections officer of going too far. Ritchie acknowledged that he’s stepped outside of his default “stay out” approach to politics. “I’ve taken a very strong position in general that my job is to run the elections and be a partner with local election officials, and I stay out of other people’s lives and campaigns and their work,” Ritchie said. “But when something is about elections and about our basic election system, then I always take a more active role.”
Even as Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature were advancing a voter ID constitutional amendment on to the November ballot last week, DFLers were predicting court challenges. In 2011 Republicans passed a statutory photo ID requirement in both chambers, but their bill was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. This year the GOP-controlled House and Senate regrouped to pass the measure as a ballot question shortly before the Easter/Passover recess. The constitutional route, if successful, carries the twin benefits of bypassing Dayton and codifying the policy in a way that’s very difficult to reverse. Legal challenges are nothing new in states that have advanced voter ID proposals. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a photo ID law in Indiana. In other states — most recently, Wisconsin and Missouri — voter ID has stumbled in the courts for different reasons.
It was a ceremonial gesture only, but this morning Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the Voter ID bill approved last week by the Republican-led Legislature. The bill calls for a statewide vote in November on a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, will require all voters to show state-approved photo IDs. But the measure will be on the November ballot anyway. The governor’s veto can’t keep amendments passed by the Legislature off the ballot, which is why the Republican majority went that route.
Only days after the Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment that will ask voters this November to require that Minnesotans show photo identification at the polls, groups that oppose the measure vowed to fight it in court. “This question is deceptive and misleading to voters and the court should strike it down and reject it,” Mike Dean, executive director of Minnesota Common Cause, said Monday. Dean said his group and the Minnesota chapter of the America Civil Liberties Union are preparing a lawsuit to stop the amendment from getting on the ballot.
A controversial constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo identification at the polls has cleared one of the last hurdles on the way to the fall ballot. An all-Republican conference committee hammered out a compromise version of the House and Senate voter identification proposals and passed it unanimously Monday night, over the vocal protests of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, which described the compromise as “worse” than either of the original plans. Proponents were more pleased with the committee’s work. … The compromise plan now returns to the House and Senate for a final vote. Both chambers had earlier approved slightly different versions of the amendment on straight party-line votes. Gov. Mark Dayton can’t veto a proposed amendment, as he did with a photo identification law passed by legislators last year.
Last year, Republicans introduced legislation in thirty-four states to mandate government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot. Nine GOP states have passed voter ID laws since the 2010 election, including Pennsylvania earlier last month. Minnesota, another important battleground state, could be next. Last year, Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill from the GOP legislature that would have given the state the strictest voter ID law in the nation, prohibiting passports, military IDs and student IDs as valid documentation. Now the legislature is bypassing the governor by approving a constitutional amendment for voter ID that will go on the November ballot. The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the legislation; once agreed upon, the measure will go on the 2012 ballot. If approved by voters, the 2013 legislature will implement the particulars of the law.