The Minnesota House passed an omnibus elections bill today that would allow eligible voters to cast absentee ballots without stating a reason for not voting in person on Election Day.
The vote was 74-60, with only
one two Republican joining Democrats on the prevailing side. That doesn’t appear to meet the “broad bipartisan support” standard that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said he’ll require to sign election law changes.
In addition to no-excuse absentee voting, the bill includes higher thresholds for taxpayer-funded recounts, tighter controls over felon voting rights and a reduction in Election Day vouching.
There’s also a change in way statewide elections would proceed if a majority candidate dies or is incapacitated.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, said unlike the process that followed the death of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002, the state would wait and hold a special election for the affected contest in February.
“That election would have been postponed. Not the whole general election obviously, but for that office,” Simon said. “We’d postpone it for three months in essence.”
The lone One of two GOP votes came from Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, who praised Simon for his bipartisan approach to the bill. But Sanders explained that while his fellow Republicans might like the House bill, they’re concerned with the Senate elections bill. That bill includes early voting and a June primary.
“When we look at the Senate provisions, my side of the aisle has a lot of cause for concern, as to what the bill coming back from conference committee could look like,” Sanders said.
Rep. Simon amended the bill to remove a provision linking Minnesota’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. The House debated that proposal separately as a stand-alone bill. Simon said awarding the states electoral votes to the popular vote winner is a matter of fairness.
“In a number of occasions, the second-place votegetter won the presidency of the United States,” Simon said. “I don’t know how we explain it, but I know how we can fix it.”
Support and opposition for the change crossed party lines. The bill failed 62-71. But then House Majority leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, quickly resurrected the measure and send it to the House Rules Committee.