ST. PAUL, Minn. – In the midst of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19, where any large gatherings are prohibited and social distancing is necessary, Senator Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan), ranking DFL lead on the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee, is calling for action to provide alternatives to in-person voting that guarantee each Minnesotan’s fundamental right to a free and fair election.
“Ensuring a fair and legitimate election during this public health crisis must be a priority for Minnesota’s policymakers, but it should not come at the cost of the lives of our citizens,” said Senator Carlson. “Look no further than our neighbors in Wisconsin, where thousands of people were forced to choose between their health and fulfilling their civic duty. Now is the time for us to prepare a contingency plan to make sure our elections are adapting to this new normal without putting people at risk.”
Despite efforts to postpone the Wisconsin Primary Election to a later date, the primary went on as scheduled on Tuesday. In Milwaukee, 175 out of 180 polling locations were closed, lines stretched in the thousands, waiting times to vote went well over 2 hours, and national guard members were used to staff polls due to the shortage of poll workers.
“There is no reason for us to follow the dangerous precedent that Wisconsin set, where people are forced to choose between their health and their vote. During this unprecedented public health crisis, let us implement procedures that ensure the integrity of our election and the safety of our citizens,” said Senator Carlson.
Senator Carlson supports legislation authorizing the Secretary of State to implement procedures that prioritize public health and election integrity during peacetime emergency, including statewide vote by mail. Voting by mail is already a widespread practice for voters overseas and those who vote absentee. Currently, 1,080 precincts representing 26% of the total precincts in Minnesota are vote by mail. More than 160,000 people already vote by mail in these precincts and hundreds of thousands more vote absentee by mail in Minnesota. Several states including California, Oregon, Washington and Utah already have universal vote by mail.
Senator Carlson supports appropriating the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding of $17,184,139 to improve security of elections, which has been unnecessarily delayed in past legislative sessions.