Early Voting, Ranked Choice Voting, and Other Elections Changes … – League of Minnesota Cities

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The House and Senate elections committees both moved forward their omnibus bills, making several changes to elections administration. 
Two major elections omnibus bills moved in the Legislature. The House elections finance and policy bill, HF 1723 (Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley) was passed out of the House Elections Finance and Policy Committee on March 31 following the adoption of a  delete-all amendment. The bill will now to go the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Senate bill, SF 1636 (Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan) was initially heard in the Senate Elections Committee on March 28 and will be heard in the same committee in an upcoming hearing for markup of the delete-all amendment.
The League has weighed in on both bills, and provided testimony on SF 1635 in committee to share concerns over the current early voting requirements in the bill.
Both bills would establish early voting. These provisions were heard in committee individually earlier in the session, and wrapped into the omnibus bills.
Early voting would replace the current absentee “direct balloting” process with true early voting in which a voter would no longer have to submit an absentee ballot application, but would check-in for voting the same way they would on election day. The bill extends this to 18 days before election day. Only cities that administer absentee balloting would be required to administer early voting.
The bills establish the following days in which a municipal clerk’s office would be required to be open for early voting during state general elections:
The League has provided testimony on this provision multiple times throughout the legislative session, advocating that any additional nonbusiness hours for early voting be optional.
Read about prior committee activity on the early voting provisions
A provision in both bills would prohibit a person from directly or indirectly using or threatening force, coercion, violence, restraint, damage, harm, or loss — including loss of employment or economic reprisal — against another with the intent to influence an election official in the performance of a duty of election administration.
The provision also prohibits:
Both bills contain a provision that allows a city to require that a candidate file a written request with the chief election official at least 19 days before the city election if the candidate wants to have the candidate’s write-in votes individually recorded.
Under this provision, a city could also require that write-in votes for an individual candidate only be individually recorded if the total number of write-in votes for that office is equal to or greater than the fewest number of non-write-in votes for a ballot candidate.
Provisions contained in SF 2270 (Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-New Haven), a bill to authorize local governments to implement ranked choice voting, were also included in the Senate omnibus bill. Several changes were made to the bill, including changing the makeup of the ranked choice voting implementation task force to include four representatives appointed by the League of Minnesota Cities instead of three.
The bill also narrowed the elections in which cities may adopt ranked choice voting to those that are not held in conjunction with a state general election due to challenges in administering ranked choice voting in the same election as a non-ranked choice voting election. The bill also now requires that, if a home rule charter or statutory city does not administer their own election, they must enter into an agreement with their county or counties administering the election before adopting ranked choice voting.
This provision was not included in the House omnibus bill, but was heard separately in committee as  HF 2486 (Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope). HF 2486 passed out of the House Elections Finance and Policy Committee and was re-referred to the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee, where it has not yet been heard.
Read about prior committee activity on the ranked choice voting provisions
The House elections omnibus bill also would:
Read about prior committee activity on the direct elections funding provisions
The House is moving its elections finance and policy provisions together in one bill, HF 1732. The Senate has already heard its first elections policy omnibus bill, SF 1191 (Sen. Bonnie Westlin, DFL-Plymouth), containing many similar policy provisions as the House omnibus policy and finance bill. The Senate is expected to continue moving forward both SF 1191 and SF 1636.
Once each bill has passed committees and their respective chambers, they are expected to be moved to a conference committee in which any differences in the bills will be negotiated. League staff continues to monitor each of these bills closely and communicate the League’s positions to members of the Legislature.
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