Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said his office is exploring a number of “pandemic election options,” including conducting the entire presidential election by mail-in ballots.
“The current public health crisis has been a serious test for all Minnesotans. It has also been a test for our democracy. I’ve heard from many Minnesotans who wonder how, or even if, we will vote in this high-stakes election year,” Simon said in a statement released last week.
Simon, a Democrat who was re-elected for a second term in 2018, said it’s important for Minnesotans to prepare for a “different kind of election than we’re used to.”
“There are many options available, and which one we use will depend on what our world looks like on Election Day,” he continued.
One of the options his office is exploring is conducting the election via statewide mail-in ballots. Under this option, each registered voter is mailed a ballot to be completed at home and returned by mail, his office said.
A second option calls for expanded absentee voting, which would involve a reduction in the number of polling places, limiting polling places to centralized locations, and moving polling places out of vulnerable areas.
“Whatever option we use, we’ll do this thoughtfully and carefully. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. There are a number of costs, variables, and trade-offs to consider, and planning at all levels of government will be crucial. I am actively having conversations with counties, cities, and other partners to explore how we might proceed,” Simon concluded.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she wants to see up to $4 billion in funding in the next coronavirus stimulus bill to help states cover the cost of voting by mail.
“Vote by mail is so important to our democracy so that people have access to voting and not be deterred, especially at this time, by the admonition to stay home,” she said.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, which would “guarantee every voter a secure mail-in paper ballot and help states cover the cost of printing, self-sealing envelopes, ballot tracking and postage.”
“Without federal action, Americans might have to choose between casting a ballot and protecting their health,” the senators said in a Washington Post op-ed discussing their bill. “The best way to ensure that this virus doesn’t keep people from the ballot box is to bring the ballot box to them. We must allow every American the ability to vote by mail. And we must expand early voting so that voters who are not able to vote by mail are not exposed to the elevated infection risks of long lines and crowded polling locations.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].