The Omnibus Elections bill contains a number of provisions heard this year, including:
Early voting – This provision allows voters to cast their ballot early and in-person for a primary, general, or special election for federal, state, or county offices. It dictates that early voting starts 15 days before the election and ends three days before the election. Additionally, this legislation requires that the designated county auditor or municipal clerk that administers absentee voting also provide for early voting. During this 12 day period, in-person absentee voting is prohibited.
Restore the Vote – A person convicted of a felony would be allowed to vote once they complete their term of incarceration under this provision. It directs the Secretary of State’s Office to develop written guidance for distribution to court staff, judges, corrections personnel, parole and supervised release agents, and the public. Further, the bill establishes a requirement for corrections facilities to provide notice to a felon, upon release from prison, that their right to vote has been restored, but also notifies them that they are still required to register to vote. Finally, the bill repeals a provision requiring law enforcement to investigate and prosecutors to prosecute alleged violations of voter registration laws.
Getting Younger Voters Registered to Vote – Legislation to lower the age at which someone can register to vote to 16 years old is included in the Omnibus Elections bill. The individual would still have to meet the requirements for citizenship of the United States and maintain a residence in Minnesota for at least 20 days. The advantage of pre-registering voters is that it encourages youth turnout, permits registration for first-time voters in a civics class or DMVs, and may increase the potential for youth engagement.
Registering to Vote When Renewing Drivers Licenses – This proposal would allow information on a driver’s license application to be used by the Secretary of State (SOS) to determine if the applicant is eligible to vote. Currently, applicants are asked on the application if they want to register to vote. This legislation would require that the information provided on the application be automatically transferred to the SOS to determine if the applicant is eligible to register to vote unless the applicant opts out.
Overseas Voting – National Guard members could 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. The other major provision in the bill would allow children born overseas to parents who are US citizens to vote in federal elections if the child’s parent(s) lived in Minnesota before going overseas.
Mail Balloting – Any town or city in the state with fewer than 1,000 registered voters outside the metropolitan area can take advantage of mail balloting at any municipal, county, or state election. Current statute only allows towns outside the metro area or cities with fewer than 400 registered voters to provide mail balloting.
Other provisions include:
- Number of voters a person can assist in marking ballots increased.
- Recall elections for school board members authorization.
- Political party petitions signatures requirement – under current law, there is no expiration date for signatures on a petition to gain party status. This legislation would allow signatures on a petition for a major and minor political status to be valid for one year.
- Elections emergency planning task force establishment.
- Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act – The major provisions of the bill require that each elector be paired with an alternate in the event of an emergency, and the legislation modifies the date/time when electors are required to meet.
- Incarcerated person’s actual residence use of redistricting purposes requirement. Currently, the Census Bureau counts prisoners as residents of the facilities in which they are housed instead of their homes. This legislation would fix this problem by requiring the Department of Corrections to gather information relative to the prisoner’s home address. This data would be used in attributing prisoners to their home for the purposes of redistricting.
- Election Administration Modifications – This legislation makes changes suggested by the Secretary of State and are not intended to be controversial.
The bill passed the State and Local Government Committee, and was re-referred to Judiciary. (SF 455)