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Coronavirus In Minnesota: Secretary Of State Steve Simon Proposes Bill To Expand Mail-In Voting

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon wants to temporarily expand the voting options during the 2020 elections, favoring mail-in ballots over going to the polls during a pandemic.

He addressed the matter with the state's bipartisan subcommittee on elections.

"Can you blame voters for telling pollsters that they are uncomfortable setting foot in that location?" Simon said. "Can you blame election judges for wanting to bail and leave that job, often on short notice, or no notice? Would you advise anyone you know or love to do that job?"

The bill he proposed would send ballots by mail to every registered voter in Minnesota, and would only apply during public health emergencies. The state already has a mail-in voting system in place, used by 130,000 people. He alluded to the state's $6.9 million funds through the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, as an option to pay for the changes. The fund is intended to help improve the elections process.

With an emphasis on mail-in voting, voters would have fewer places to cast their ballots in person. For that, certain Republican lawmakers are not sold, like Rep. Jim Nash of Waconia.

"It does open the door for elections fraud," Nash said. "That's why we're going to be strident in making sure this does not move forward like this."

Republican Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake has also expressed her concerns, but used Minnesota's history of bi-partisan election policy as a sign that a middle ground could be found.

"Thankfully, Minnesota already has one of the most robust no-excuse absentee ballot request processes in the country. I would suggest that Sec. Simon make the application for an absentee ballot available online today instead of waiting until mid-May," Kiffmeyer said. "I believe Minnesota can safely do both large-scale absentee voting and election day voting at polling locations with current law and some bi-partisan adjustments where needed. This could include relocating polling sites out of certain congregate locations that house vulnerable Minnesotans."

If both parties agree on some version of this bill, they would need to do so by May 4.

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