Ranking DFL-lead on the State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee Senator Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan) introduced two pieces of legislation expanding and strengthening voting accessibility Monday. The legislation SF 326 and SF 330, would allow all cities with under 400 residents to adopt all mail-in voting and would allow 16-year-olds to submit pre-registration for voting.
“Minnesota’s continued excellence in achieving high voter turnout is a result of strong voting habits and our commitment to practical and sensible voting practices,” said Senator Carlson. “These two bills would complement both of these values, and deserve fair consideration as we look to expanding voting accessibility for Minnesotans throughout the state.”
State law currently allows nonmetro townships and small cities with fewer than 400 registered voters to opt for voting exclusively by mail. Senator Carlson’s legislation would allow towns of any size or cities of under 400 registered voters to choose all mail balloting. Currently, approximately 220,000 Minnesotans have this option.
“Over 3.2 million Minnesotans voted in the 2020 election, and over 2.1 million of them voted using absentee ballots, which includes those precincts that vote exclusively by mail,” said Senator Carlson. “Voting by mail is a process that voters trust because it is a process that works, and this most recent election should only encourage us to strengthen vote by mail options for Minnesotans.”
Pre-registration for voters beginning at 16 is currently law in 14 states plus Washington D.C., with 4 other states allowing pre-registration for 17-year-olds. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, pre-registration has increased youth turnout for elections, with studies showing an increased turnout rate of 2-13% for these young voters. It is also integral to the beginning of lifelong habits that increase participation in our elections and participatory democracy.
“Voting in our elections is a right, but it is also just one piece of the civic tradition that our democracy requires for us to be a more perfect union,” said Senator Carlson. “When first time voters exercise their right to vote, they become more engaged in a lifetime of participating in the wider democratic process.”