The Minnesota Senate passed the Omnibus Elections bill on Monday. The legislation would expand early voting and restore voting rights to felons once they are no longer incarcerated. If the omnibus bill becomes law, Minnesotans would have an early voting window of 12 days. Voters could cast their vote 15 days before Election Day through 5 p.m. on the third day before Election Day.
The Restore the Vote provision was included in the Omnibus Elections bill. This provision allows felons to have their voting rights restored as soon as they serve their sentence, rather than after leaving state supervised probation or parole. Proponents argue that allowing felons to vote upon release from incarceration would encourage positive participation in society, which would encourage others, particularly children, to participate in pro-social behavior. In addition, the current system is confusing and results in voting errors: some offenders vote who legally are not allowed to do so (which is a felony), and some were prevented from voting who legally were allowed to vote. Allowing felons to vote once they are released from prison will reduce costs and minimize confusion in the election system.
The bill allows 16- and 17-year olds to “preregister” to vote, although they could not cast a vote until they turned 18. The bill would also automatically register eligible voters when they apply for a driver’s license or state identification card or have it renewed. A driver’s license applicant could opt-out of registering to vote.
Other major provisions include:
- Mail balloting authorization modification – This legislation allows any town or city in the state with fewer than 1,000 registered voters outside the metropolitan area to provide mail balloting.
- Helping voters mark ballots – Under current law, a voter who has a language barrier or is physically unable to mark a ballot is able to request assistance from an individual of their choosing. Currently, the person providing assistance can only do so for three voters. This legislation eliminates the number of voters a person can assist in marking ballots.
- Overseas voting modifications – This legislation would allow National Guard members to use the same special voting procedures when they are called into service by the state as they receive when the federal government calls them into service. The special voting procedures allow ballots to be received electronically and allows voters to track their ballots to ensure they are counted.