ST. PAUL, Minn. – Several changes could be in the works for absentee and early voting in Minnesota.
Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) is leading a bipartisan effort to alter the way Minnesotans participate in elections including lengthening the early voting period and requiring “I Voted” stickers be mailed to those who vote absentee.
Currently, Minnesotans who will not be able to make it to the polls on election day are able to vote absentee with a mail-in ballot up to 46 days before an election. For those who prefer to put their ballot in the ballot box themselves, in-person early voting begins seven days before the election.
Fenton thinks this is not enough. One of her proposals, HF463, would extend the in-person early voting period for the full 46 day absentee voting period. She believes voters should have the choice of whether they want to send their ballot in the mail or if they would rather put it in the ballot box themselves.
“This legislation preserves the integrity of our elections, provides more options for voters, and has the potential to save counties money, time and resources,” Fenton wrote in a press release.
While the change may sound good on the surface, some people are worried about the potential consequences that would come from changing the procedure for absentee voting. In a letter to Fenton, the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) expressed concern over the change, saying it would threaten the validity and credibility of elections in Minnesota.
“By extending the period of early voting from 7 to 46 days, this revision of MS 203B.081 will enable potentially hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted, bypassing the local Ballot Boards. Local Ballot Boards will no longer be able to review absentee ballot applications that they now screen and reject,” MVA wrote. “We are very worried about the immense and unnecessary reduction in normal vigilance that this change would cause.”
Extending early voting is not the only thing Fenton believes needs to be changed. Fenton joins eleven other representatives, nine of them Democrats, in a proposal that would require counties to send “I Voted” stickers to voters who sent their ballot in via the mail. Previously, counties were not required to send the iconic stickers to those who mailed in their ballot.
Both proposals may end up getting bundled into a larger elections bill.