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DFLer seeks ‘true early voting’ with elections bill heard in House

HF558 would establish a uniform 18-day early voting period ahead of Election Day. (House Photography file photo)
HF558 would establish a uniform 18-day early voting period ahead of Election Day. (House Photography file photo)

Minnesotans wanting to cast a ballot before Election Day can currently do so via an absentee ballot through the mail or they can vote early in person with an absentee ballot.

Time to do the latter could increase and become uniform.

Held over Wednesday by the House Elections Finance and Policy Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion, HF558, as amended, would establish “true early voting,” in the words of its sponsor.

“You go in, you fill out a ballot, you put that vote in a tabulator, you get the little notice on the tabulator saying it was counted, you get your sticker, and you can walk away. Just like what you can do on the actual voting day,” said Rep. Luke Frederick (DFL-Mankato).

House elections committee hears HF558, a bill to update early voting provisions in MN law 3/8/23

An 18-day window would be provided for this. Although it seems like a strange number, starting on a Friday provides for three weekends leading up to Election Day. Voting could occur at the county auditor’s office and other locations designated by the county auditor.

Poll hours are specified in the bill: “Early voting must be open between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on each weekday during the early voting period, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the same weekday each week, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each Saturday and on the Sunday before the election, and until 3:00 p.m. on the day before the election.”

“As we get closer to Election Day itself, more and more people will show up to vote which is why the increased hours and adding that Sunday before Election Day,” Frederick said.

Nicole Freeman, government relations director for the Office of the Secretary State, said in 2022, 47% of Minnesotans voting in-person before Election Day did so in the final week.

Minnesota has a plethora of policies and safeguards in place to ensure the state’s elections are free of any misdoings; however, some people still question the accuracy of elections, which supporters hope could be assuaged by the bill.

“The idea that someone can show up on Election Day or show up a week before and have the same process and putting it in the (tabulator) will add confidence,” said Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL-Mpls).

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