Changes will make Minnesota elections more accessible to disabled voters
Making the election process more open to Minnesotans is the intent of changes Minnesota state lawmakers enacted in time for the 2008 election. Voting rights advocates, the Secretary of State, leadership in the Senate and House and the governor worked hard on compromise language that everyone could live with and was ensured passage.
Since most of the legwork was done during the 2007 session, passage of these bills went off almost without a hitch. There were some bumps in the road as the process pushed toward its ultimate goal, most of which dealt with legislative process rather than the content of the bills. The result was the lumping of several bills into one large compromise bill authored by election legislation champion, Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson. The election this year will no doubt bring out many new voters and create long lines at the polls. It’s very good news for all Minnesota voters that these new laws will help protect them as they participate in the voting process this year.
Rep. Hilty also took the lead on a bill that included some key housekeeping provisions.
Here are some highlights:
• The agent delivery process is expanded to cover all individuals with disabilities and those who have incapacitating health reasons for casting an absentee ballot. The agent must have a pre-existing relationship with the voter. And, designation of an agent can begin seven days prior to the election.
• Individuals who register to vote using the voter registration application can use any of the methods for a signature as defined in §645.44, including asking someone else to sign their name.
• County auditors must make AutoMarks (voting machines for disabled voters) available during the in-person absentee period, except in township elections.
• A township holding local elections is exempt from making accessible voting systems available if the town has fewer than 500 registered voters and if the cost of compliance is more than $150. The Secretary of State and other interested parties shall review cost and equipment options beginning in 2009 and end in 2016 in order to achieve full township compliance.
Other election legislation that passed includes:
• Military and overseas voting-military personnel and others who are overseas are able to receive absentee ballots electronically
• Automatic address update is made for voters who move. Voters no longer have to register to vote each time they move. The Secretary of State will automatically update voter rolls with new address change information from the postal service
• Nonpartisan election judges can serve. People who are not affiliated with a major political party in Minnesota can also sign up to be election judges. Previously judges had to declare party affiliation when they registered.
• Challengers will be required to show the same identification that voters do for same-day registration. Challengers previously were not required to show identification.
If you have questions about other election laws adopted by the 2008 Minnesota Legislature, contact the Office of the Secretary of State at 651-215-1440 or www.sos.state.mn.us