The Senate DFL Caucus held a virtual press conference this week to highlight the need to protect the integrity of Minnesota’s elections and the safety of Minnesota’s voters. It is crucial we pass legislation that ensures the Secretary of State and local election officials have the resources they need to administer the upcoming Minnesota elections during this unprecedented pandemic.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding from the federal government, passed in 2019, and additional funds passed last month in response to COVID-19 could be immediately available to the Secretary of State if Senate Republicans decide to release it. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, HAVA funds may be used for unanticipated expenses due to the pandemic, including implementing the statewide vote-by-mail program Senate DFLers are pushing for in order to keep voters and poll workers safe.
The House DFL majority recently introduced legislation to not only immediately provide critical HAVA resources but to also expand flexibility for local election officials to designate new polling locations, deputize health care professionals to administer absentee ballots similar to election judges, and increase the timeline for processing absentee ballots.
In addition to our calls for the release of funds for the Secretary of State’s office, voter privacy continues to be a cause for concern as the Senate still has not passed legislation to protect the data of those who voted in the presidential primary. DFL-authored legislation to address these privacy concerns was introduced in February of this year, with plenty of time to pass it before the presidential primary and ease the concerns of Minnesota voters. Senate Republicans never gave the bill a hearing, so voter data from the primary could still be released to political groups by political parties.
Making our elections safe and secure for voters should not be a partisan issue. There are only 10 weeks until voters head to the polls, and we know the threat of COVID-19 will almost certainly remain. We must take action on these issues and complete our work in the time we have before adjournment, to give the Secretary of State time to help our election officials throughout the state.
There is no reason to make people choose between their safety and their right to vote. We don’t have to look further than our neighbors to our east about the dangers of holding an election without taking the safety precautions necessary during COVID-19. We cannot fail our fundamental responsibility of keeping Minnesotans safe, and the Senate DFL will continue to be the voice in the Senate that advocates for the safety and security of Minnesota voters and election workers.