As Minnesotans, we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong elections system – a system that has been shaped and built by all political parties – over the last century. Thousands of Minnesotans take part in running our elections every year, and Minnesotans are proud to lead the nation in voter turnout. Our democracy is stronger when more citizens vote, showing they have a stake in their own future and the future of our state.
We’ve seen the efforts nationally to establish barriers to voting that would effectively reduce participation of eligible voters, especially among the elderly, disabled, those living and serving overseas, young, people of color, new citizens, and women.
As Secretary of State, I will champion access for all eligible voters and I will protect Minnesota’s strong elections system.
Same-Day Registration is an incredibly successful expansion of voter access started in Minnesota in 1974, implemented by six-term Secretary of State Joan Growe. After decades of use in Minnesota and other states, we know that states with Same-Day or Election Day registration consistently produce turnout that is typically 10-12 percentage points higher than other states. The primary reason we need this important tool for voter access is documented in census data: on average, more than 10 percent of Americans move in any given year. And that number is even higher for some groups. Without Same-Day Registration, thousands of Minnesotans who move during the typical 20 or 30-day cutoff to register before Election Day would not be able to register at their new address. This means they would not be able to vote.
As Secretary of State, I will enthusiastically preserve and protect Minnesota’s 40 year tradition of Same-Day voter registration.
I actively opposed the Photo ID amendment in 2012. The proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment was passed by the legislature solely along partisan lines. This violated the historical requirement from our Governors that broad bipartisan support is needed for election reform – to prevent one party from “gaming” the rules of our democracy for partisan advantage. The specifics of the proposed Photo ID amendment were even more disturbing; it would have made Minnesota the most restrictive state in the nation, preventing thousands of eligible voters from voting and it would have ended our Same-Day Registration system. I worked across the state to educate voters on the risks of the proposed amendment. Looking forward, if visual verification is deemed a good and necessary election reform, then one potential could be through implementing electronic poll books.
As Secretary of State, I will continue to oppose voter Photo ID requirements that could create a barrier to voting or delay access to voting.
In the legislature, I have successfully championed new laws to remove barriers to voting and expand access. One was moving the date of our primary election to August, to insure that votes could be cast from our military voters and others serving and living overseas. There was simply not enough time between the September primary and the general election to mail absentee ballots to voters, and get them back in time to count. Now our overseas voters can be assured access to ballots and that their votes will be received in time to be counted.
As Secretary of State I am committed to building on the improvements of the past few years to ensure that voting is fully accessible to our citizens living and serving overseas, as they deserve.
The U.S. has the most complicated voting system of any democracy and research shows that confusion and fear are great barriers to new voters. As Secretary of State, I will work with the Minnesota Councils and others to educate new voters and make them feel welcomed and confident about participating. I also support printing election materials in many languages – we have been doing this for over a century, but the languages then were Norwegian, French, Swedish.
I championed the new “no excuses” absentee voter law that lets voters vote from home, giving many online access to information to help make them better-informed voters, which is good for everyone.
Registration is a barrier to voting that is not required in all states or other countries. In the legislature, I championed the new online registration system that is making it much easier for voters to register and update their registration. I support an automated “motor voter” law, moving from the current “opt-in” system when eligible voters apply or renew their driver’s licenses. In addition, I’ll advocate for “pre-registration” of 16- and 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the time of the next statewide general election.
Citizens with past felony convictions face a barrier to voting that demands attention. Minnesota is more inclusive than many other states in that people with felony convictions eventually regain their right to vote. However, unlike our neighboring state of North Dakota and 12 other states that restore voting rights to citizens when they leave prison, Minnesota restores voting rights only after citizens are “off paper.” Most felonies are non-violent crimes, so most people with felony convictions complete much of their sentence on parole or probation while living in the community but are ineligible to vote. This barrier to voting can last for years, and causes tremendous confusion. I believe that Minnesota should move in the general direction of the “North Dakota” model to restore voting rights to citizens who are living in our community. Some exceptions may be justified. But in my view, registering to vote and voting are strong indications of positive community engagement. Research shows that voting reduces the chances that a person will re-offend. Citizens who vote become vested in their community, which helps get their lives back on track; a benefit for everyone.
As Secretary of State I will continue opposing efforts to weaken our democracy by establishing barriers to voting, while leading on modernizations and improvements that promote inclusion and protect and strengthen the right to vote for all citizens.