Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has introduced legislation to expand mail-in voting and reduce in-person polling places. Ostensibly intended only to be in effect should Gov. Walz’ state of emergency stretch into the summer and fall, Simon’s proposal is in keeping with earlier efforts to make absentee voting “easier”.
As reported by the Star Tribune on April 8, Simon envisions making “temporary, one-time” changes that would automatically mail ballots to registered voters. He is also asking for extra time for election administrators to process the votes.
Simon justifies these changes as “public health” measures, pointing out that some current polling places are in sensitive locations such as senior living high-rises, nursing homes and care facilities. Closing and consolidating polling places would result in increased traffic and wait times at the remaining locations.
Republicans in the House and Senate pointed out that Minnesota’s existing laws governing absentee voting are already sufficient to allow for the safe administration of the coming elections.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan agreed. "Minnesota has a great, no-excuse absentee voting system in which any eligible voter can vote by mail, without any changes to the law, should they choose to do so. Attempting to change a law now for elections that are months away is extremely premature and a disappointing power grab by the Democrats at a time of extreme unease."
Rep. Jim Nash (R, Waconia) expressed concern that “The way the bill sits today does allow for heavy electioneering, and that is something we want to avoid.” He suggested that instead of reducing the number of polling places, the number should be increased to reduce the number of people congregating at one site.