Minnesota House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Marlee Schlegel
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April 18, 2023
Minnesota House passes Elections budget bill
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Tonight, the Minnesota House passed its Elections budget bill on a vote of 70-59. The bill makes our elections safer, smoother, and easier to administer while ensuring our Democratic process is accessible to all eligible voters in Minnesota.
The Elections budget bill is authored by Chair of the Elections Committee, Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL – Golden Valley). The bill has been incorporated into the State Government budget bill to create the State Government and Elections budget bill.
“In order for democracy to work, the power must lay with the people,” said Chair Freiberg. “Participating in the democratic process is a right, not a privilege, and this bill will help ensure access and support for Minnesotans who want to make their voice heard at the polls. Minnesota’s elections have always been among the smoothest and most secure in the nation, but passing this Elections bill will make our elections even safer, easier, and more inclusive than they’ve ever been.”
The Elections bill sets the budget for the Minnesota Secretary of State, which administers and oversees our statewide elections. In partnership with local election officials, the office’s Elections Division works to ensure that every eligible vote is properly cast, counted, and reported. The budget bill fulfills funding needs for automatic voter registration and early voting to increase ease and accessibility for Minnesotans, so every eligible voter can exercise their civic duty to participate in elections.
“Last year, democracy was squarely on the ballot and Minnesotans of every race, generation, region and background showed up not just to participate in democracy but to protect it”, said Rep. Emma Greenman. "This bill responds to the urgency of the moment by strengthening the freedom to vote and protecting Minnesota's proud tradition of trusted local elections administration and the Minnesotans who run our elections."
Currently, Minnesotans have the right to take time off from work to vote, but the right only applies to Election Day. Our budget bill expands employees’ ability to be absent from work to include the 46-day in-person early voting period, allowing Minnesota’s workers flexibility and reducing strain on businesses, which in years past have had to operate short-staffed while several employees may be absent to vote on the same day. The bill also includes provisions to establish additional polling places on Tribal land if requested by a Tribe, which may be open for part or all of early voting, helping to bridge an access gap for many of our Native neighbors.
“Our democracy works best when all Minnesotans have the opportunity to participate and make their voices heard,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Expanded and simplified early and absentee voting is critical to ensuring our elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all.”
The bill also invests resources in the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to support their work to ensure confidence in our elections by enforcing campaign finance laws. Other campaign finance provisions include requiring lobbyist registration for all political subdivisions. Currently, lobbyists are only required to report attempts to influence legislative or administrative actions or metropolitan units of government, excluding all parts of the state outside of the Twin Cities metro. By requiring registration, it will increase the transparency of lobbying efforts among local governments across the state.
“As a state, we can do more to ensure that every eligible voter can exercise their civic duty and participate in our elections,” said House Majority Leader Jamie Long. “That’s why in this budget, we ensure that Minnesotans have the option to take time away from work to vote either during early voting or on Election Day. Our democracy works best when more people are involved, not less.”
Other items in the bill include creating a list of permanent absentee voters so that individuals who choose to vote by mail will automatically receive a ballot instead of having to request one for each election. The bill also strengthens Election Worker protections, creating a new class of criminal offense for intimidation of election officials or interference in the performance of their duties. Finally, the bill adds Minnesota to a growing list of states that have pledged to award electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in a Presidential election. The agreement would not go into effect until enough states have joined to reach 270 electoral votes collectively.