Democrats in the Minnesota Senate are pressing majority Republicans to take steps to protect the health of voters in this year’s election.
They highlighted a proposal Tuesday that would give voters new alternatives, including the relocation of some polling places and a temporary expansion of voting by mail. Democrats want ballots sent automatically to registered voters.
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, said that the coronavirus pandemic is threatening the right to a fair and secure election.
“Passing legislation that allows communities across the state to vote by mail is crucial, timely and a public health need,” Kent said.
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The lawmakers say the change will also increase voting participation.
Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, said some voters won’t bother voting without a mail-in option.
“The more we make it easier for Minnesotans to vote, the more of us will vote,” Frentz said. “The more of us that vote, the more the result reflects the will of the people.”
Republicans oppose the proposed expansion of voting by mail.
Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, the chair of the State Elections Committee, said the state should instead increase the use of the no-excuse absentee voting option that is already in law.
“I believe Minnesota can safely do both large-scale absentee voting and election day voting at polling locations with current law and some bipartisan adjustments where needed,” Kiffmeyer said in a recent statement.
A committee in the DFL-controlled House has been discussing the same proposals, which were put forward by Secretary of State Steve Simon. The House State Government Finance Division meets again on the issue Thursday.
Some Republican lawmakers argue that an expansion of voting-by-mail could lead to people raiding mailboxes and committing voter fraud. But Simon told members of the House panel last week that there are procedures in place to prevent that.
“You can’t just take someone’s absentee ballot, vote it and send it back,” Simon said. “Unless you knew their Social Security number and/or their driver’s license number, that ballot will not be counted. So, the joke is on the fraudster.”