The elections bill was amended by the House to include the secretary of state’s administrative provisions, five Uniform Election Dates, and authorization for county officer appointments. The controversial provisions, including provisional balloting, reclassifying nonpublic election data as public, and eliminating self-certification at the polls were removed in the House delete-everything amendment.
The secretary of state’s language includes technical changes, deletes obsolete language, clarifies statute to current practice, and updates cross references. The uniform election dates will require municipal special elections to be held on the second Tuesday in February, April, May, August, and November.
The elections bill also requires public employees that are elected to serve on tribal councils to be entitled to unpaid leaves of absence with the right to reinstatement, which is already provided to other public officials.
Election judge party affiliation is no longer classified as public data, but a compromise allows election judges to have access to other election judge party affiliation within the same polling location, only for purposes of verifying party balance requirements. The data may not be used for any other purpose. (S.F. 514)
Elections Bills that Did Not Become Law
Omnibus Elections Bill
Governor Dayton repeatedly stated that he would veto any election-related legislation that does not have bipartisan support. The first omnibus elections bill did not receive any DFL votes because it would have disenfranchised voters, decreased voter turnout, and harmfully exposed private voter data. After passage by the Senate Republican majority, the bill was amended by the House, which removed the controversial provisions.
The secretary of state was opposed to the bill and testified in opposition to two of the major provisions in this bill, which included instituting a second-class tier of ballots, characterized as provisional balloting. It also would have reclassified election judge party affiliation and challenged voter status as public information.
Opponents of provisional balloting point to the fact that these ballots tend to disenfranchise voters. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, of the more than two million provisional ballots cast in 2012, more than 25% were not counted at all.
Provisional ballots have the potential to be used in conjunction with voter ID requirements or prohibit same-day registrants. Numerous states with voter ID restrictions force a voter to cast a provisional ballot if the voter does not provide necessary identification at the polls. The original intent of provisional ballots was to allow citizens to vote who otherwise would not be able to due to the inability to register at the polls. With provisional ballots in Minnesota, votes would remain uncounted because of administrative error and the inability of voters to verify their eligibility.
Any challenge in a voter’s status, regardless of whether it is meritorious or not, would have been permanently and publicly available. In the event of county or judicial error, and even if a voter resolves their voter status, information on their status would be available to anyone. Requiring a voter’s challenged status to be made public would have resulted in citizens being scrutinized based on no fault of their own – often due to an address mix-up, confusion about their correct polling location, or sharing a name with an ineligible voter.
Making public the party affiliation of election judges would discourage people from signing up and could create a shortage of staff, which would compromise the integrity of our election process.