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Minnesota House Passes Elections Conference Committee Report

Monday, May 13, 2024

Minnesota House of Representatives 




CONTACT:  Marlee Schlegel 

651-296-9873 or 

May 13, 2024 

Minnesota House Passes Elections Conference Committee Report

St. Paul, Minn. -- Tonight, the Minnesota House passed the conference committee report on the Elections Committee Policy and Finance Bill. The policy provisions of the report focus on improved voter access and election transparency. It targets policy areas where the state can improve voter turnout and ensure that if voting is restricted, voters have a means of redress. Additionally, it enhances disclosure requirements for those seeking to influence elections, expands voter access and comprehension, and increases election transparency. The finance provisions include measures to increase local government funding to support election administration and infrastructure and improve clarity on local election spending. The report builds upon last year’s historic progress in election security and safety by increasing support to local municipalities and polling places. The report passed on a vote of 70-63.

Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL – Golden Valley), Chair of the House Elections Committee, authored the legislation.  

“Thank you to the members of the conference committee for your work on this package,” said Rep. Freiberg. “We’ve put together a strong package in line with the values of the committee: making Minnesota’s elections more secure, accessible, and safe. This biennium has offered us the chance to make major strides towards these values and goals, and I’m proud to say we seized the opportunity and made positive change for Minnesotans.” 

The cornerstone of the report is the Minnesota Voting Right Act (MVRA), which codifies, streamlines, and strengthens the protections against voter suppression and vote dilution under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. This report is a response to a recent ruling by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upended decades of precedent in its decision to deprive citizens in the 8th Circuit, including Minnesota, of the right to file a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for claims of voter suppression or dilution. This package will ensure Minnesotans can vindicate these essential protections to combat racial discrimination in voting. 

The Minnesota Voting Rights Act will protect voters from discriminatory voter suppression tactics, including closing or shifting polling places, language access denial, inadequate voter registration efforts, notary requirements, and/or off-cycle non-standard election days. 

The report also provides proper funding to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board to support the processing and review of local races. With this change, local candidates for office, such as city council or school board races, will have to file, register, and disclose finance information the same as they do for state races. The new requirement would apply to any candidate who receives or disperses more than $750 in an election cycle. The report also includes necessary funds to reimburse local costs related to claims filed under the Minnesota Voting Right Act. 

The package also includes making voter registration more accessible and equitable so all eligible voters have the means and ability to participate in our democracy. The package allows voters to provide a physical description of the location where the voter maintains residence if their residence lacks a street address, which provides additional means to register unhoused people and those on Tribal land. The package also expands the ability to request absentee ballots online to all elections, including city-level, with few exceptions. It also requires colleges and universities be provided an early voting location on campus at the request of the institution. 

The policy provisions also include efforts to make our census process more accurate, resulting in fairer elections. Currently, inmates in Minnesota prisons are counted in the census as residents of where they are incarcerated, which results in inaccuracies in data. The Elections package includes legislation to make sure incarcerated Minnesotans are counted where they last resided instead, ensuring their communities have an accurate representation of residency. This affects redistricting, a process which takes place every 10 years in accordance with census data. 

The package also includes a provision to strengthen a law passed last year to prohibit AI generated “deep fakes” from interfering in our elections. The report strengthens the definitions, timeline, and penalties associated with election deepfakes. This provision encompasses all elections and election-related events, like caucuses and conventions, and includes a separate and additional penalty of electoral disqualification upon conviction of violating deep fake laws. 

Last year, DFLers laid the foundation for this year’s policy package by expanding access to early voting, increasing the number of polling places offered in Tribal communities, allowing employees to take time off of work to vote early if they choose, strengthening protections for election workers, implementing early registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, and properly funding the Campaign Finance Board. This year’s package builds on last year’s work to close loopholes and gaps used against Minnesotans to suppress voters and discourage participation.  

The package makes technical changes to redirect and redistribute unused funds from 2021 and place them in the Voting Operations, Technology, and Elections Resources (VOTER) Account. It also allocates additional support for local election administrators. These funds will ease burdens on local jurisdictions by helping purchase equipment, hardware or software, cybersecurity, security-related infrastructure, and capital improvements for the purpose of improving physical access to a voting location.