Minnesota Democrats Push for Ballot Harvesting, Drop Boxes in COVID-19 Response

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Minnesota Democrats are pushing for several sweeping election changes to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, including universal mail-in ballots and even ballot drop-boxes.

The general election is still seven months away, but Minnesota’s primary election occurs August 11 with early voting beginning June 26.

The Minnesota DFL Party released its “Defending Democracy” plan Thursday, a set of legislative proposals “designed to ensure that all eligible voters can safely cast ballots during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the party said in a press release.

The plan calls for sending absentee ballots to every registered voter in Minnesota and sending a voter registration form, along with an application for an absentee ballot, to every unregistered voter.

The DFL proposal asks the state to allow “individuals and community organization to assist voters complete, then collect and deliver, sealed ballots,” a practice that is referred to as ballot harvesting and illegal in Minnesota.

In fact, the Minnesota Republican Party and the Republican National Committee intervened in a lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU and other Democratic groups that seeks to overturn the state’s ballot harvesting ban.

Other ideas in the “Defending Democracy” plan include accepting all absentee ballots that are postmarked by, rather than received by, election day and extending early in-person voting to 46 days before election day.

One of the more unique suggestions in the plan calls for placing “ballot drop-boxes” outside of local government building for voters to deliver their ballots.

“Nobody should have to choose between protecting their health and casting their ballot,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement, noting that “medical experts” have predicted a second coronavirus outbreak will come in the fall.

“Our primary is 124 days away, early voting starts in just 78 days, and we will need to begin training folks and printing ballots in early May. These changes will take time to implement, so we must act now if we are going to defend our democracy from the worst public health crisis in a century,” he added.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, appeared before the House Elections Committee last week to promote an elections bill that would enact many of the policies cited in the DFL’s plan. Under the bill, each registered voter in Minnesota would automatically receive a ballot in the mail while the number of physical polling places would be reduced.

Additionally, the bill would allow candidates to file for candidacy by email, fax, or mail and ballot petitions to be signed digitally.

“The administration of elections has become a public health issue,” Simon said. “After talking with elections professionals from all levels of government throughout the state, the goal became very clear to me: we need to minimize exposure at polling places and maximize voting by mail.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mail-In Ballot” by Chris Phan. CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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