Republicans push bill to make voting rules more restrictive

    Voters in Minneapolis. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

    Minnesota has some of the least restrictive voting rules in the country, offering Election Day voter registration, absentee voting by mail and early in-person voting to all eligible Minnesotans.

    State Sens. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, and Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, have a wide-ranging bill that would create new processes and restrictions they say are needed for election security. Kiffmeyer said the “common sense” legislation would “make voting easily accessible while maintaining the extremely important integrity of our elections.”

    As in other states, some Minnesota Republicans made claims unsupported by evidence that Democrats benefited from voter fraud during the 2020 election.

    Minnesota allows voters to register on Election Day or re-register and vote if they’ve moved since voting last on Election Day, and their ballot is counted like any other. But under the proposed Kiffmeyer bill, an unregistered voter — or someone who changed their address without having re-registered — would be required to cast a provisional ballot that would sit for a week until election officials can verify their identity and count it.

    The proposal is included in the Senate’s state government budget bill. On a 5-3 party-line vote, the bill moved on to the Senate Finance Committee Monday. 

    The bill would also prohibit a registered voter from vouching for an unregistered voter at a polling place. It would also ban cities from using ranked-choice voting for local elections — while the Senate DFL has been advocating for cities statewide to make the switch. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Minnetonka and others already use ranked-choice voting. 

    The DFL House majority and DFL Gov. Tim Walz oppose these measures for restricting voting access. But its insertion in a budget bill means DFL lawmakers will have to negotiate something away to ensure the voting provisions don’t become law. 

    Other states have far more restrictive vote-by-mail and early voting rules. In Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Delaware, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, New York and West Virginia, all voters can vote early in person, but voters need an excuse for absentee ballots. In Alabama, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Missouri and South Carolina, voters need an excuse and early voting isn’t available to everyone. Both Delaware and New York are expected to pass an amendment removing the excuse provision before the 2022 election. 

    Due to widespread mail voting, the 2020 general election was the most accessible in American history, according to the Center for Election Innovation & Research. Following President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, however, Republicans across the country are seeking to roll back mail and absentee voting that made the 2020 election so accessible.

    And now a recent report by the voting think tank argues these efforts could make voting not just less accessible but also less secure. The report by the Center for Election Innovation & Research said last week that rolling back mail and absentee voting would concentrate voting on a single day instead of over a longer period, which could hamper efforts to detect fraud or cyber-attacks.

    The report analyzed voter access in all 50 states, comparing the availability of vote-by-mail and early in-person voting. CEIR said it was conducted in response to rampant misinformation about ballot access for eligible voters. 

     

    Gracie Stockton
    Gracie Stockton is a senior at the University of Minnesota. She was awarded the 2021 Kaufman scholarship from the Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication and joined the Reformer as an intern. Gracie also studies theatre and Russian, and is an artist in her free time.