Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Ron Latz said removing a measure to restore voting rights to freed felons was his biggest compromise of the legislative session, but that it didn’t have a chance in the House. “It wasn’t going to happen. (Republican House)Speaker (Kurt) Daudt made clearly to me that they were not going to accept it in the House, no questions asked,” Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said Sunday evening, hours after a conference committee passed its joint Public Safety and Judiciary Finance and Policy Bill. The measure still awaits final vote in the House and Senate.
The Senate passed a wide-ranging elections bill 39-28 on a mostly party line vote that would expand early voting and restore voting rights to felons once they are no longer incarcerated. The bill would automatically register eligible voters when they apply for a driver’s license or state identification card or have it renewed. It would also allow 16- and 17-year olds to “preregister” to vote. A driver’s license applicant could opt-out of registering to vote.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met with Meeker County Auditor Barb Loch on Monday to discuss election-related issues, including concerns about aging election equipment. Simon, who made six stops in the region Monday, said a common concern among local officials is finding money to replace a fleet of election equipment purchased about 10 to 12 years ago with federal funds. Those federal dollars are no longer available, Simon said during an interview after his meeting with Loch.
A measure to restore voting rights to felons who have been released from incarceration successfully cleared its first committee hurdle Thursday backed by a broad coalition of support. Dozens packed the hearing room in support of the bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, that would change state law to allow conflicted felons to vote immediately after they’re released from prison or the workhouse, rather than when they’ve completed the terms of their probation or parole—a process that can take years, if not decades.
Absentee voting procedures available to military members called to service by the president could soon be extended to members of the Minnesota National Guard. There’s currently a difference in absentee voting rights between National Guard members who are called to service by a governor and members called to service by the president. National Guard members called up for federal service can receive their ballot in some circumstances by email and do not need a witness for their absentee ballot.
An unusual alliance of some of the state’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers at the Capitol this year are supporting an effort that would allow convicted felons to vote once they leave prison. Under Minnesota law, convicted felons are only eligible to vote after they’ve completed all terms of their sentences — including probation or supervised release. Bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Bobbie Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow convicted felons to vote after finishing their prison sentences.
Two weeks into his term as Minnesota’s new secretary of state, Steve Simon has a goal to make voting as easy as possible for the state’s residents. Simon, a former DFL legislator from Hopkins, in 2014 helped bring about no-excuse absentee voting, which he said has been a huge success. He said there was a 55 percent increase in people utilizing absentee voting during the election in 2014 when compared to 2010, another non-presidential election year.
SAINT PAUL, Minnesota — In recognition of his service and contributions to election-related technology and legislation, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie today awarded Max Hailperin, professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion.
“The citizens of Minnesota have benefited from Hailperin’s technological expertise,” says Ritchie. “He has been an invaluable resource to this office in all matters related to technology and elections.”
A judge said Tuesday that he expects to rule “very quickly” on a lawsuit seeking to force Maryland officials to implement an online ballot-marking tool for the blind, a case that could impact other states that don’t use the tool. Lawyers for the National Federation of the Blind are hoping to have the tool in place in time for November’s elections. Their lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, contends that the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for not using the technology, which they say would safeguard blind voters’ privacy.
Minnesota voters can now request an absentee ballot online at mnvotes.org through a new tool launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. The service allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot quickly and easily without the need to print, scan forms, and return by mail, fax or email. A similar tool for military and overseas voters was introduced in September 2013. Voters may request an absentee ballot for both the August 12 Primary Election and November 4 General Election.