Overseas Balloting a Target of Election Reform
St. Paul, Minn.— Senator Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan) continued his focus on reforming Minnesota election law on Thursday, as he brought forward a bill to make voting more reliable for members of the military and citizens living overseas. Under current law, citizens can request for their ballot to be sent to them by email or fax, but cannot send them back in the same way.
Sen. Carlson’s bill allows for uniformed and overseas citizens to return their ballot by email or fax. 82% of Minnesota’s deployed military and overseas voters hoped to have the option to return their ballots by email or fax. Those wishes would be granted under this bill.
“Minnesota is one of only 19 states that require a physical copy of a ballot in order for it to be counted,” noted Sen. Carlson. “In the most recent election, 1,029 members of the military requested ballots with the intention to have them counted, but just over half were returned in time, pointing to a bottleneck in the electoral system. Depending on where Minnesotans are located overseas, physically mailing a ballot can take weeks, which can seriously hamper participation in our democracy by the very men and women who defend it.”
Don Kerr, Executive Director of the Minnesota National Guard lent his strong support of the bill, and it was noted that Minnesota has the sixth most active National Guard in the country. Secretary of State Steve Simon also testified in support, noting that significant security measures can be taken to ensure that email receipt of ballots is safe, secret, and secure. All of the current laws surrounding absentee balloting would be continued, and additional precautions would be taken to address security concerns.
The bill was laid over for possible inclusion into a larger Elections Omnibus bill.