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Early voting bill approved

Published (3/13/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Ryan Anderson, Minnesota State University, Mankato student body president, testifies before the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee March 10 in support of a bill that would authorize early voting. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Minnesota voters could cast their ballots as early as two weeks before Election Day.

Under HF1113, Minnesota would join 31 others states that allow their residents to vote early. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Will Morgan (DFL-Burnsville), said the change would address a growing demand from the public, whose desire to vote may conflict with work schedules and personal lives.

“We think it’s a matter of convenience for the voters,” Morgan told the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee March 10.

Under the bill’s provisions, early voting would be available on weekdays beginning two weeks prior to an election, and on the Saturday before Election Day. Early voters would be subject to the same eligibility requirements and other laws as regular voters.

Supporters say it would benefit students, disabled persons and others whose living situations or lifestyles make it difficult to get to travel and/or wait in long lines at their polling places. They argue many Minnesotans are already voting early by abusing the state’s absentee voting system.

Common Cause Minnesota Executive Director Mike Dean said early voting would help resolve some of the issues that have led to complications in the state’s U.S. Senate recount, such as voters not understanding eligibility requirements and improperly filling out absentee ballot forms.

Opponents, including Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), raised concerns that the bill might add complication to the voting process, thus raising the potential for mistakes.

“Throughout American history, we’ve had a one-day voting system,” Gottwalt noted, and said the high voter turnout in the last election is evidence that the current system is working fine.

The committee approved the bill and referred it to the House Finance Committee. Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) sponsors the companion, SF970, which awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

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