A Minnesota House panel has advanced a batch of election law changes that for now has some bipartisan support.
The bill includes no-excuse absentee voting, higher thresholds for triggering taxpayer-funded recounts, tighter controls over felon voting rights and a reduction in Election Day vouching. It would allow one voter to vouch for a maximum of eight people, down from the current limit of 15. The bill also links the state’s electoral votes for president to the national popular vote winner.
The House Elections Committee approved the omnibus bill today on a mostly favorable
voice vote, sending it on to the Government Operations Committee.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park is the committee chairman and chief author of the bill. Simon said he believes House Republicans will help pass the bill.
“There won’t be total agreement, and there may be members on the floor who want to make a point about particular parts of the bill that they’re not wild about,” Simon said. “But generally speaking, I think we crafted something that has broad bipartisan support.”
The House bill does not include the early voting or June primary provisions advanced by the Senate. Republicans in the Senate have not supported that election bill. Gov. Mark Dayton has said repeatedly that he will only sign election bills that have broad bipartisan support.
Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, said he thinks the House bill will have more Republicans on board with a few changes.
“There are a couple issues in there that will cause members concern, especially national popular vote, on both sides of the aisle,” Sanders said. “So, it’s moving in the right direction. It has a couple more stops. But I think this bill, it’s almost there.”
Sanders briefly proposed amending the bill with a photo identification requirement for voting, much like the one in the proposed constitutional amendment that voters rejected last November. Sanders withdrew the amendment after receiving assurances that a stand-alone voter ID bill will be discussed at a later date.
“I think that the voters were saying send it back to the Legislature and get it right,” he said.
The House bill also provides some additional flexibility to county prosecutors on whether to bring charges for voting law violations. It comes in the wake of a recent case in Nicollet County, where an elderly woman with dementia was charged with a felony for voting twice.
Rep. Simon said the current law allows no discretion and “can sometimes result in absurd outcomes.”