Protecting & Expanding Democracy (Elections)

Minnesotans elected us this year to ensure that our state remains a national leader in elections, and the Senate DFL accomplished that goal by establishing new protections for election officials, creating a robust and clear system of early voting, increasing accessibility in our polling places, and enacting a wide variety of essential, pro-democracy reforms which will ensure that every voice is heard in our elections. Strengthening our democracy is a top priority for Minnesotans in every community across the state, and these historic changes will protect and expand the freedom to vote while lowering barriers to the polls for voters everywhere.

Restore the Vote

Over 50,000 Minnesotans will have their right to vote restored as of June 1, 2023.

Passing Restore the Vote, which allows individuals convicted of felonies to vote again as soon as they are no longer in incarceration, was a top priority for Senate DFLers this year. Before this, individuals with felony convictions had to wait until they were “off paper”, having completed their parole or probation, before their right to vote was restored.

Minnesota has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country but this is in part because of the state’s use of rather long probation periods, meaning before this bill passed individuals with felony records often had to wait years after they are released before their right to vote is restored.

Minnesota’s disenfranchisement rate is also over 4 times what it was 40 years ago. Black men are disenfranchised at seven times the rate of white men.

Senate DFLers took the opportunity to improve the lives of over 50,000 Minnesotans in passing this bill while addressing the disproportionate affect disenfranchisement has on Black Minnesotans.

We also know that people who vote take a more active and positive role in their communities, and that children who watch their parents vote are more likely to vote when they grow up.

Our criminal justice system needs to be rooted in rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. Passing this bill allows individuals to build connections with their community upon release from incarceration, which is key to both.

Democracy for the People Act

The Democracy for the People act included numerous historic elections reforms, including:

  • Automatic Voter Registration, which will register an individual to vote when they apply for a Minnesota Driver’s License, MinnesotaCare application, or other relevant application from a participating state agency. There are currently an estimated 575,000 eligible but unregistered individuals in MN, and this change will be especially impactful for voters from historically underrepresented communities.
  • Prohibitions on foreign-influenced corporations donating to campaigns will reduce the influence of wealthy interests in our elections and amplify the voices of regular citizens. Our democracy is not for sale, and corporations should never have special privileges in our elections. Wealthy individuals and corporations have had an enormously oversized influence for decades, and this bill will allow Minnesotans to determine who represents them without worrying about interference from outsider interests. 
  • Permanent Absentee Voting Status, which will increase ease of voting by allowing Minnesotans to opt-in to a permanent absentee list and directly receive an absentee ballot each year, rather than having to go through the process of filling out an absentee ballot application.
  • Pre-registration for 16- & 17-year-olds will help make voting a lifelong habit for our youth. Programs like this one will encourage young people to connect with the political process, setting a solid foundation of civic participation for future generations.
  • Penalties for voter intimidation will allow Minnesotans to feel safe as they cast their ballot by ensuring that our polling places are free from intimidation, interference, and deceptive practices. Any violation of this new law is a gross misdemeanor.
  • Multilingual election materials and interpretive services will make our elections more inclusive and increase voter engagement across the state. Every community deserves to be represented in our elections, and this long over-due update will increase access and amplify the voices of all voters in our democracy.

National Popular Vote Compact

This session, Minnesota joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which seeks to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across the country. The compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a total of 270 electoral votes, and current signees have a combined total of 205 electoral votes (including Minnesota). By enacting this deeply popular change, our state has moved closer to ensuring that the will of the people will prevail when we decide who will hold the highest office in the nation.

Election Worker Protections

New protections for election officials will keep our friends and neighbors safe from intimidation and harassment as they conduct the essential work of our democracy. Reports have been increasing from communities across the state of threatening phone calls, workers being followed home, and even physical assault in the polling place. These new standards will ensure that every Minnesotan can participate in our elections without fear for their safety.

The violation of any new protection is a gross misdemeanor with a potential civil penalty of up to $1,000 in addition to any damages. County auditors may now also remove any election official from a polling place for neglect of duty, misconduct, malfeasance, or for other causes.

Funding for Election Administration ($2.5m)

A new source of state funding for election administration will help to support our local communities as they work to meet the demands of election day. Funds are distributed to counties and local governments, and may be used for equipment, cybersecurity, capital improvements, staff costs, local matches, and other operating expenses.

Accessibility in the Polling Place ($500k)

Every Minnesotan deserves the right to freely cast their ballot, and providing equal access to the polls for individuals with disabilities is a fundamental part of ensuring that our elections are fair, open, and equal.Some of the most significant barriers to the polls in our state exist for voters with disabilities, and these grants to improve the accessibility of polling places may be used by local governments for a wide variety of purposes, including improving or installing widened doorways, curb cut outs, handrails or ramps, accessible parking spaces, restrooms, accessible polling booths, and automatic door openers, as well as to purchase other accessibility tools such as magnifiers which are used in the polling place on election day.

Early Voting and PTO for Early & Absentee Voting ($164k)

A new 18-day early voting period for state, federal, and county elections will allow voters to cast their ballot at the time that works best for them – without having to go through the absentee process. This will expand access to the polls for families everywhere, and an additional new provision to allow workers to take leave to vote without loss of pay during the 46 days prior to an election will further expand access to the ballot and amplify the voices of working Minnesotans in our elections. Expanded hours for early voting include Sundays, and county auditors may also establish additional “pop-up” early voting locations to facilitate voting access for individuals who need additional support to vote.

Secretary of State Voting Study ($125k)

Ranked Choice Voting was dramatically reduced as it moved through the committee process this year, and now constitutes a study by the Secretary of State of ways to improve voter engagement and education, which may include but is not limited to RCV. The OSS must review existing election systems and ways to improve voter turnout, as well as the impact of any potential changes on traditionally underrepresented communities. The results of this study will help to inform the legislature for any potential future changes related to Ranked Choice Voting or other improvements to our elections.

Communities across the state have expressed interest in adopting RCV, and this fair-minded, common-sense approach will lay the foundation for future reforms to strengthen and expand our democracy in years to come.

Public Subsidy Increase ($2.1m)

EveryMinnesotan deserves to have their voice heard in our elections, and this investment in public financing will allow single mothers, workers, individuals with disabilities, and Minnesotans from all backgrounds to afford the costs of running for office. Increasing the public subsidy will also move campaigns back into the hands of candidates and away from the influence of PACs andlarge donors.Broadening the base of who can afford to run for office will make our elections more accessible to regular Minnesotans, allowing candidates from all backgrounds to run their campaigns in a way that is more grounded in their own values and beliefs.

Lobbying and Principal Reporting Reforms

Minnesotans have a right to know who is lobbying our government officials, and for what purpose. New standards passed this year will increase transparency and shine a light on wealthy spending in our elections by requiring lobbyists to disclose their subjects of interest and the officials which they are trying to influence instead of the amount of money they spent on telegraphs and other outdated expenses. These modernizing changes will make our government more transparent and more accountable to voters. 

Student Provisions

Post secondary institutions now have several new requirements to help increase student voter turnout, including providing housing lists to county auditors for registration purposes, as well as more regularly providing registration forms to students, appointing a campus vote coordinator, and creating a website to share voter registration and election administration information. Youth voter turnout is an area where we can always improve, and these changes will encourage strong student engagement and strengthen the future of our democracy.


Minnesota has adopted a federal regulating electioneering communications which has been adopted by 25 other states. This change ensures that voters will have the information they need to make an informed decision on election day by combating the harmful influence of dishonest attack ads.

Virtual Currencies & Mobile Payments

Modernizing updates, including new requirements related to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and mobile apps including CashApp, will help to keep Minnesota a national leader on the cutting edge of elections. Under the new regulations, any contributions made to candidates in a virtual currency must be exchanged for USD within five days, and any changes in value must be reported to the Campaign Finance Board.

Major Party Status Increase

Minnesota’s threshold for major party status has increased from 5% to 8%. Parties must meet this new threshold in the 2024 election, and an additional provision was passed to introduce enforcement for statute which requires major parties to hold a convention at least 45 counties or legislative districts (reduced from the current standard of every county and district). These changes will ensure that parties meet a reasonable standard of statewide presence to receive public financing.

Political Contribution Refund Program

The Political Contribution Refund Program is increased from $50 to $75 for individuals and from $100 to $150 for couples, effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Did not pass:

Senate GOP Election Integrity Act

In addition to passing a wide array of pro-democracy reforms this year, the DFL prevented the passage of deeply harmful election provisions, including provisional ballots and voter ID. The Senate DFL remains committed to protecting Minnesotans against dangerous and anti-democratic proposals which are aimed at decreasing voting access, making registration more difficult, and preventing voters from exercising their fundamental rights.

Party Fundraisers

A prohibition which would have prevented candidates from soliciting contributions for parties from lobbyists or PACs during the legislative session did not make it over the finish line this year, and we look forward to working with members of all parties in order to get this language right next session. Current law prohibits everyone from soliciting donations for their own campaigns during session.

Democracy Dollars / Small Donor Match

Several public financing proposals were considered this year, including a “Democracy Dollars” coupon program based on an existing system in Seattle and a small donor match program based on a program in New York City. Neither of these programs passed, although a substantial increase in the public subsidy was included in the final omnibus bill. A $25 increase to the PCR program passed separately in the Taxes bill as well.

Constitutional Amendment A constitutional amendment for fair and free elections was passed to the floor early in session but was not heard before session concluded.

Senate DFL Media