Controversial election bills considered by Senate Republicans

Republicans are once again preparing to change Minnesota’s elections for the worse this year, by hearing an election-related bill that makes absentee voting more difficult and another that makes election administration extremely more expensive.

The first bill heard in State Government Finance Committee would require a watermark or ultraviolet marking on all ballots, which is nationally unprecedented. The manufacturing, storing, and distribution of paper that has these capabilities is much more expensive than printing on normal ballot paper and provides no additional security to our election administration. Currently, poll workers and ballot boards are required to cross reference the number of poll site signatures, actual ballots, ballot machine counts, absentee ballot envelopes, and final ballot tabulations to ensure they are identical. Watermarked ballots are only used in a handful of states for absentee ballots and would increase election administration costs by ten to fifteen times with no discernable benefit.

Watermarks on ballots have become a salient topic due in part to 2020 election conspiracy theories. A debunked QAnon-linked conspiracy theory falsely claimed the Department of Homeland Security under the Trump Administration secretly watermarked official ballots. The Maricopa County election audit conducted by the partisan entity Cyber Ninjas even went so far as to use ultraviolet lights to analyze ballots, which rekindled claims of watermarks on ballots.

Minnesota’s team of thousands of non-partisan election officials carried out one of the most secure elections in our state last cycle and helped to facilitate Minnesota being number one in voter turnout yet again. This bill not only costs local election administrators and taxpayers exorbitantly more to print ballots; it seeks to give credence to wild conspiracy theories about our last election.

The second election bill proposed in State Government Finance would restrict the ability of non-governmental organizations to make it easy for Minnesota voters to apply for an absentee ballot.

The bill prohibits campaigns and private organizations from pre-filling contact information in mailings to voters to notify them they are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot. No excuse absentee and early in-person voting have become popular options for voters because they make voting much more convenient and flexible to voters’ schedules. Any efforts by Republicans to reduce access or create barriers to voting in Minnesota will be roundly rejected by the Senate DFL caucus. (SF 2956, SF 3077)