Protecting & Expanding Democracy (Elections)

In 2023, the Senate DFL took historic steps to strengthen Minnesota’s elections by enacting strong new protections for election officials, restoring the vote for formerly incarcerated individuals, passing the Democracy for the People act, and enacting a wide variety of pro-democracy reforms. This session, the Elections Omnibus bill built upon those victories with important new investments in local elections administration, protections against the harassment of election workers, and through a new Minnesota Voting Rights act to prevent elections discrimination. These overdue changes will expand the freedom to vote and ensure that Minnesota’s elections remain the strongest in the country. (SF 4729)

Minnesota Voting Rights Act

The removal of the private right of action from the Federal Voting Rights act stripped voters of color from accessing one of the most effective tools in U.S. history to prevent racial discrimination in voting. The strong protections of the new Minnesota Voting Rights Act will codify, streamline, and strengthen the Federal Voting Rights Act to provide clear recourse for individuals and local governments to prevent discriminatory elections and redistricting practices.

The MN Voting Rights Act creates a new private right of action and enacts several new provisions related to elections discrimination. The language seeks to codify and expand the private right of action which was struck down from Sec. 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2023, including by establishing new state level protections and legal remedies for voter suppression and vote dilution against protected classes.

Funding was additionally provided to a new account to help reimburse local governments for the cost-sharing requirements contained in the pre-suit notice portion of the act, which provides local governments and injured parties with an opportunity to resolve discriminatory issues without going to court. Cost sharing expenses for local governments are capped at $30,000, and the account is funded at $144k in FY 25, and $25k/year ongoing. (SF 3994)

VOTER Account ($86k in new funding, $1.75m/year transferred)

This session, the Senate DFL more than doubled the current investment in the VOTER Account – Minnesota’s first source of state funding for local elections administration. The VOTER Account was established in 2023, and supports local governments as they conduct the essential work of our democracy. The funding is very flexible, and can help defray the costs of voting equipment, essential security, accommodations for individuals with disabilities, staff costs, local matches, and other important expenses to make sure that Minnesota’s elections remain the best in the nation. (SF 4729)

College Polling Places ($200k in FY 24-25, $150k in FY 26-27)

Minnesota has some of the strongest voter turnout nationwide, but one of the areas we can still improve is in youth voter participation. Increasing awareness and strengthening youth voter registration efforts by promoting voting at colleges will encourage young Minnesotans to connect with the political process, setting a solid foundation of civic participation for future generations.

Local governments are now required to establish temporary polling places on or near college campuses upon request by colleges or student organizations. A reimbursement account to defray the costs of operating the new polling sites was also created, with eligible reimbursements including election materials, staff costs, printing, technology costs, and other expenses. This provision only applies to post-secondary institutions which provide on-campus housing to at least 100 students. (SF 3616)

Deep Fakes

Deep fakes represent a serious threat to our democracy, and Minnesota may be entering the first election cycle where AI and other technologies are readily available and accessible for anyone to spread disinformation at a realistic level. AI technology will continue to advance whether Minnesota is ready or not, and establishing a clear framework and strong protections is critical to ensuring that new technologies are used in a safe and responsible manner.

Minnesota’s protections against the use of deep fakes to influence and election have been strengthened and expanded, including by creating new penalties for violations including forfeiture of office for candidates and officials. (SF 3550)

Ending Prison Gerrymandering

This provision establishes new requirements for the allocation of incarcerated individuals for congressional, legislative, and local redistricting. Under this provision, individuals who are incarcerated in a state or federal prison during the census must be counted as residing at their last known address prior to incarceration for the purposes of redistricting, as opposed to the current practice of counting individuals as residing where they are incarcerated. This language takes effect following the 2030 census.

Ending the practice of prison gerrymandering, which numerous states across the country have already done, will make Minnesota’s redistricting system fairer and will correct imbalances which benefit districts with prisons at the expense of other communities across the state. This simple change will also bring our redistricting practices into alignment with the MN Constitution, which requires that residency not be revoked during incarceration. (SF 3878)

Electioneering

Electioneering protections have been modernized to include new standards for emails, test blasts, phone banks, and other digital communications which are disseminated online or by telephone and which are capable of generating over 2,500 contacts within a district. These new standards reflect the reality of political advertising in 2024, and will help to keep Minnesota’s campaign finance protections strong and up to date. (SF 4729)

Doxing

Protections established in 2023 against the doxing of election officials were expanded this session to also include the dissemination of home telephone or personal cell phone numbers, personal email addresses, names or photographs of minor children, and any home address. These protections also apply to law enforcement officers.

Election officials are our friends, family, and neighbors, and they deserve to be able to conduct their duties without fear of harassment or intimidation. Communities across the state have reported increasing threats towards election workers, and with this bill we can strengthen and expand Minnesota’s clear protections against harassment and interference. (SF 3481)

Highschool Pre-registration

Existing law requiring school districts to provide voter registration forms has been expanded to include students who are eligible to pre-register to vote under the language passed in the Democracy for the People Act (HF 03) in the 2023 session. (SF 3871)

Lobbying Registration Updates

Lobbying registration requirements passed during the 2023 session have been paused until June 1st, 2025, and registration standards which existed prior to 2023 have been reinstated. The Campaign Finance Board is required to study several definitions related to local and state-level lobbying and to submit recommendations to the legislature on any necessary clarifications before the pause ends. (SF 4700)

School Board Vacancies

School boards may now fill vacancies which occur less than two years before the end of a term by appointment without requiring a special election. This provision does not apply if a school board member has been removed for cause. (SF 4951)

Voter Lists

New language prohibits individuals from publishing voter lists on a public website or otherwise redistributing information from the list, except for approved purposes related to elections, politics, or law enforcement. (SF 3818)

Voter Registration Updates

Voter registration forms have been updated to allow voters to provide a physical description of the location where they maintain residence. This practice is currently used on the federal National Mail Voter Registration Form and will help accommodate individuals who don’t have traditional street addresses, including unhoused Minnesotans and members of some Tribal Nations. (SF 3818)

Electoral Count Reform Act

Numerous updates to conform with federal guidance in the Electoral Count Reform Act passed this year, which include several new practices related to electors. (SF 3818)

Did not Pass:

Senate GOP Election Integrity Act:

Anti-democratic Republican proposals, including provisional ballots and voter ID provisions, did not pass this year. The Senate DFL remains committed to protecting Minnesotans against harmful proposals which are aimed at decreasing voting access, making registration more difficult, and preventing voters from exercising their fundamental rights.

Constitutional Amendment

A three-part constitutional amendment including an independent redistricting commission, a “revolving door” legislator-to-lobbyist prohibition, a repeal of the limit on legislative days as well as the constitutional adjournment date, was heard in committee but did not pass this year. Additional proposals related to redistricting principles were considered, and further work will likely continue over the interim. (SF 3785)

Ranked Choice Voting

Several versions of a local option RCV proposal were heard in both bodies this year, however the proposal did not pass the floor in either the House or Senate. (SF 3868)

Party Fundraisers

A prohibition which would have prevented candidates from soliciting contributions for parties from lobbyists or PACs during the legislative session was defeated as a GOP amendment on the Senate floor, and did not pass this year.

Public Financing

Public financing proposals including a small donor match program did not pass this year.

Political Contribution Refund electronic filing

A bill to create an online filing system for the PCR program did not pass. See Taxes section for more information.

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