Minn. Legislature studies new forms of early voting

7:56 PM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota lawmakers are weighing election reforms that would make it easier for people to cast a ballot before Election Day arrives.

Minnesota in 2012 once again topped the nation with the highest voter turnout percentage, but in some precincts long lines stretched throughout the day because poll workers and equipment were overwhelmed.

"One certain way of dealing with the line issue is to have either early voting or no-excuse absentee voting," Joe Mansky, the longtime Ramsey County elections director told KARE.

Minnesota is one of 18 states that don't allow early voting in person. It's one of 21 states that still require voters to list a reason for voting absentee, whether by mail or in person.

Mansky will testify at the Capitol later this week about the advantages of both reforms.

"That the voters get options, I think is useful," Mansky said.

"You as a voter, from our standpoint, should have the option, as far as when you vote, where you vote and how you vote," he added.

Currently, when you apply for an absentee ballot in Minnesota, you've got to check one of several boxes explaining your reason for not voting in person.

Those include:

  • Absent from precinct
  • Sickness or disability
  • Conflict with a religious holiday
  • Busy working as an election judge
  • Quarantine declared by governor or president

A no-excuse system, used in 27 other states, allows you to vote absentee by mail or in person simply because it's convenient.

Ramsey County conducted a no-excuse absentee voting system during the 1990s after receiving a waiver from the state.

"There was a substantial increase in absentee voting during the two presidential elections, where we had it," Mansky said.

In 1988, before the waiver, 10,168 Ramsey County residents voted absentee.

In 1992, with the no-excuse system in place, absentees rose to 17,585 or an increase of 73 percent over the previous presidential election.

In 1992, with the no-excuse balloting still in place, absentee voting in Ramsey County rose by another 54 percent, reaching 27,053.

In the 2000 election Ramsey County, voters returned to the standard system and absentee ballots fell to 15,976.

"When the waiver went away and we went back to requiring an excuse to vote absentee, the number of people voting absentee fell off by over 40 percent," Mansky recalled.

In the 2012 General Election, 267,000 Minnesotans voted using absentee ballots, according the Minnesota Secretary of State's office.  That's roughly 9 percent of the 2.96 million votes cast.

Mansky said that in Ramsey County most of the absentee ballots are cast by suburban voters.  Only 40 percent of the absentee voters live inside St. Paul.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE.All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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