House, Senate approve absentee ballot reformby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota House has passed a bill with bipartisan support that tightens up the state's absentee ballot system.
The legislation requires each county to use a committee made up of local election officials to handle absentee ballots in a uniform process. It also improves the ability to track the ballots and verify that voters are properly registered.
Minnesota's 2008 Senate recount pointed out several shortcomings with the way absentee ballots are handled.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, noted 12,000 absentee ballots were rejected in 2008.
"Two-thousand of those 12,000 are thought to be improperly rejected, and there are were some number certainly that were likely accepted when they shouldn't have been," Winkler said.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, voted against the election bill. Emmer, a GOP candidate for governor, said the measure lets the state take away too much local control.
"Our local officials are supposed to be in charge of their elections. Let's stop taking away that authority," Emmer said. "There's going to be one day when they wake up and say how did this happen? How did we turn all of this over to somebody else, and why are we operating under these not only ludicrous but onerous burdens that we've let somebody else create for us?"
Monday's House vote was a resounding 131-2 in favor of the measure, with the Senate approving the bill as well.
During the Senate debate Monday, Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said the boards will make sure absentee ballots are processed in a consistent manner statewide.
"It will institute more objective criteria for accepting or rejecting absentee ballots," said Sieben. "For instance, it will replace the signature match with identification number matches."
Seiben said the changes will help increase voter confidence in the election results.
A final vote on the bill is could come as early as next week.