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Early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and ranked-choice voting proposals are among the many bills already introduced.
(Published Feb 11, 2013)
As the first month of the 2013 session came to a close, legislators introduced many significant election reform bills, and some of those bills are now receiving their first hearings. The bills include proposals for early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and ranked choice voting (RCV) as well as new rules for vote-by-mail elections, and election recounts.
Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-Fridley) is the chief author of HF 334, which would establish early voting for the 15 days prior to Election Day. Currently there is no Senate companion. For more information on this bill, read this Third Reading article.
No-excuse absentee voting
Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) is the chief author of HF 193, which would allow voters to vote absentee without a reason or excuse. Currently, if you are unable to be in your precinct on Election Day, you can vote absentee, but you must provide an excuse for doing so. Though an excuse is required, there is no enforcement or “excuse police” to validate reasons given by voters. This legislation would remove the requirement.
The bill would also allow election administers to open absentee ballot envelopes at the close of business on the seventh day before the election, versus the fourth. This is a welcomed change by election officials as it would decrease the workload in the days immediately preceding Election Day. The bill has now been heard and laid over twice in the House Elections Committee. There is no Senate companion.
The League would like to know what cities think about the idea of no-excuse absentee voting. Do you like the idea? Do you have any concerns about it? If so, let us know by using the comment box at the bottom of the page.
Ranked choice voting
Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) introduced SF 335 to authorize jurisdictions to adopt RCV, and establish procedures for adoption, implementation, and use of RCV. The House companion, HF 367, is authored by Rep. Simon. So far, there have been no hearings for either version.
The League supports local choice for adopting and implementing RCV, but it also has a policy urging the Legislature to adopt statewide standards for implementation (policy SD-63 on page 40 of the LMC 2013 City Policies [pdf]).
Increase in population cap for mail balloting
Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL-Baudette) is the author of HF 224, which would give more towns and cities the option of conducting a vote-by-mail election. Current statute allows towns and cities with up to 400 residents to conduct mail balloting. This bill would increase that number to 1,000 for cities outside of the 11-county metro area, and allow all towns to conduct mail balloting should they decide to do so.
It was discussed at both meetings of the House Elections Committee during the first week of February, and was laid over for further discussion. The Senate companion is authored by Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) and has not had a hearing yet.
Reduction in threshold for publicly funded voter recount
Rep. Michael Beard (R-Shakopee) is authoring HF 197, which would require a difference of less than 3,000 votes or 0.25 percent of total votes in federal, state constitutional, or judicial offices to trigger a state-funded recount. Currently, a 0.5 percent difference is required.
Decreasing the margin could save money and in some cases, unnecessary recounts, when the presumed loser is not interested in a recount. The bill was passed out of the House Elections Committee and onto the general register. There is currently no Senate companion.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns about any of these bills, please use the comment box below to tell us about them.
* By posting you are agreeing to the LMC Comment Policy.
Contact Ann Lindstrom
(651) 281-1261 or (800) 925-1122