Early voting measure heads to House floor

A measure that would allow Minnesotans to vote early is headed to the floor of the Minnesota House, but it doesn’t appear to be getting the bipartisan support that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said is needed for election law changes.

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the bill today by a vote of 15-12, with all Republicans opposed. The bill allows voters to cast their ballots at centralized polling places during a specified period before Election Day.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said he didn’t see the difference between early voting and absentee voting. He also wondered what problem the bill would solve.

But Rep. Connie Bernardy, DFL-Fridley, the bill’s chief author, said early voting is a better approach.

“Right now, absentee voting you need to have an excuse,” Bernardy said. “Having early voting 15 days in advance of the election, you don’t have to have an excuse. It costs about half as much to process a vote, and it creates access, especially for people with a disability or the elderly.”

There are 32 states that already allow early voting.

The committee also advanced the House Omnibus Election Bill, which includes a provision to expand the use of absentee voting. It would eliminate the requirement that voters state a reason for not voting in person on Election Day.

The omnibus bill, which did receive bipartisan support, also reduces the margin that triggers an automatic, taxpayer-funded recount and tightens procedures to prevent felons from voting illegally.