A Minnesota House committee is considering a bill that would allow significantly more people to vote by absentee ballot beginning in 2014.
Under the measure, eligible voters could get an absentee ballot without stating a reason why they can’t vote in person at their neighborhood polling place on Election Day. Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, told members of the House Election Committee today that his no-excuse absentee voting bill would put Minnesota in line with 27 other states. Simon said the current absentee system is unenforceable.
“My point of view is that we shouldn’t make lawbreakers out of the folks who for reasons of convenience or otherwise choose to vote absentee,” Simon said. “As long as we have integrity protections in place, I think it’s important that we make voting reasonably convenient for increasingly busy people.”
The proposal differs from so-called “early voting” laws that require voters to place their ballots into a secure machine ahead of Election Day. An absentee system gives voters a period of time to change their ballot if they choose to.
Simon, who chairs the committee, said he thinks there can be bipartisan support for his bill, since that’s the threshold DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has set for signing any election bills into law.
But Republicans aren’t yet ready to make any commitments. House Minority Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he wants to make sure that the bill is solving a real problem, and that the proposed changes don’t place any unnecessary burdens on local election officials. Daudt is also mindful of the governor’s requirement for bipartisanship.
“That gives us a little power, that if we don’t put up any votes that these things aren’t going to happen,” Daudt said. We want to make sure that we’re giving all of these issues and arguements due consideration before we say yes or no.”
The elections committee plans to take additional testimony on the bill and several amendments at a later date.