Minnesota’s omnibus elections bill, HF1603, includes about two dozen elections-related measures that would impact the way residents register to vote, how absentee ballots are cast, change how candidates can spend fund on security, and would add Minnesota to a growing number of states trying to move toward awarding Electoral College votes based on the outcome of the national popular vote.

The proposed legislation, made up of bills previously heard in the House Subcommittee on Elections, was approved as amended this week on a 5-3 party-line vote, Session Daily reported. It next goes to the House Government Operations Committee and is expected to be folded into the omnibus state government finance bill, the legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, said. The bill would bring “more integrity” to the state’s elections, and would make it “so more people can participate in our elections,” he continued.


What’s in it?

• One measure in the bill, HF40, would make Minnesota one of 14 states to automatically restore voting rights to felons once their prison term is complete.

• Another measure, HF45, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, would provide for Minnesotans eligible to vote to be automatically registered when applying for a Minnesota driver’s license, state identification card, or learner’s permit. Currently, applicants are given an option to opt-in to voter registration on those applications. Under the automatic registration provision, that would be reversed. Applicants would have the opportunity to decline registering to vote. Those who don’t decline would be registered following a review by the secretary of state’s office.

• A measure, HF979, would direct secretary of state’s office to create written materials assisting tenants in the process of registering to vote and locating their local precinct; landlords would be required to provide a copy of those materials to each tenant with 30 days of entering a lease.

• Another measure would require certain public transit providers to have fixed-route public transit service free of charge on the day of a statewide election.

• One measure would establish standards and procedures for early voting in Minnesota, which would allow a voter to cast a ballot at a centralized polling place during a specified period prior to Election Day.

• Another would authorize all local governments the option to elect local officials using ranked-choice voting.


‘Partisan provisions’

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, is the minority lead on the subcommittee and shared his displeasure with what he called the partisan nature of what has often been a nonpartisan, noncontroversial bill.

“This is loaded with partisan provisions,” Nash said.

He unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have deleted a number of provisions in the bill, including the restoration of felon voting rights, automatic voter registration, the requirement that landlords provide tenants with registration information, free transit rides on Election Day and the Help America Vote Act appropriation, HF14. 

Session Daily reported that DFLers said they didn’t understand Republican objections to “common-sense” provisions like the proposed redistricting advisory commission. That measure “is trying to prevent gerrymandering,” Rep. Alice Mann, DFL-Lakeville, said. 

“What’s partisan about that?” she asked.

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