Two House bills aim to make voting easier in Minnesota

Both moved on, including one for automatic voter registration

Sloane Martin
February 05, 2019 - 2:09 pm
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Two bills aimed at increasing voter turnout in the state that usually leads in the nation in the category are moving on at the capitol.

One would change to an opt-out registration system when people are renewing their licenses, essentially enacting automatic voter registration. Minnesota residents now have to check a box on their paperwork to register to vote; under this bill, they would check the box to not be registered.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon at Tuesday's Government Relations hearing says it's a solid solution for people who remain skeptical of same-day voter registration.

"Wouldn't you want somebody to be in the system a day or a week or a month or a year before the election, so that all the filtering and screening and vetting that our office and the counties do can be done then and not on election day," he said. "That's why I assume it's been passed in red states and blue states."

RELATED: Absentee voting on record pace in Minnesota

Some lawmakers like Rep. Nick Zerwas wanted to delay advancing the bill over concerns the data would overburden the Department of Public Safety, which is already plagued by MNLARS, but Rep. Kristin Bahner, whose career background is in technology, said the processes wouldn't intersect, and bill author, Rep. Jennifer Schultz, said it was not a "political" bill.

"I think we've moved off track a bit on the MNLARS debate," Schultz said. 

The automatic voter registration bill is slated to advance to the ways and means committee.

The second bill would increase the number of voters someone may assist in marking a ballot, allowing more people with disabilities or those lacking proficiency in English to vote. Minnesota and Arkansas are the only states that impose a limit.

"One clear example of how this law change could be applied is by following the footsteps of the direct support professional, who may easily find themselves accompanying four people with disabilities to the polls," Cody Oltsen with the Minnesota Council on Disability said in his testimony. "Under the current law, that PCA would not be able to support all of their clients, which would deprive the fourth person the liberty to vote."