Minnesota senators debated election legislation Monday like they debate issues during campaigns: dividing along party lines.The Democrat-controlled Senate approved 39-28 a bill to allow mail balloting in small cities and townships, expand voting before Election Day and let felons vote once released from prison. In the meantime, negotiations began late Monday afternoon among the governor and legislative leaders toward a compromise on budget issues that must be resolved in the next week to meet the constitutionally mandated adjournment date. Republicans opposed the election bill by Sen. Katie Sieben, D-Newport.
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.”Full Article: No excuse needed to vote absentee in Minnesota | Star Tribune.
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.Full Article: Lawmakers move to preserve online voter registration system after judge voided existing portal | Star Tribune.
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.Full Article: Online voter registration advances in Minn. House | Star Tribune.
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.Full Article: Dayton says online voter registration system should go through Legislature | Star Tribune.
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.Full Article: Voter ID debate could resurface with task force study | Minnesota Public Radio News.
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.Full Article: Election bills take shape in House, Senate | The Princeton Union-EagleThe Princeton Union-Eagle.
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.Full Article: Early voting measure heads to House floor | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio.
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.Full Article: electionlineWeekly.
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.Full Article: DFLers contol Minnesota Capitol but election overhaul ideas need GOP support | StarTribune.com.
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.Full Article: Bill would allow no-excuse absentee voting, limit vouching | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio.
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.”Full Article: DFL’s proposed election-law changes unlikely without bipartisan support | MinnPost.
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.Full Article: "No-excuse" absentee voting bill gets a hearing | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio.
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.Full Article: How to Vote Down Voter ID.
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.”Full Article: Voter ID 2013, Part 1 - The Thicket at State Legislatures.
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.Full Article: Voting-law changes are on DFL minds | StarTribune.com.
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.Full Article: Legislature might consider an ‘early voting’ system for Minnesota | MinnPost.
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.Full Article: Even without photo ID, election system likely to see changes | Minnesota Public Radio News.
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.Full Article: Bachmann-Graves recount possible | Minnesota Public Radio News.