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Last year’s voting delays brings call for election reform

published 1/17/2013
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The House Elections Committee listened to testimony concerning some severe voting delays at the 2012 election.

Malda Farnham, a Blue Earth County election judge, said that about 40 percent of her precinct voters had to be registered on Election Day, resulting in waiting periods of up to an hour.

“I am unable to say how many voters left without voting because they could not see the end of the line, which was outside the building,” she said.

Miriam Braunhausen, also a Blue Earth County election judge, added that the college housing lists were out of date.

Minneapolis voters Dean Olson and Eric Reichwald echoed their wait concerns.

Olson, who lives in an apartment building with primarily the elderly and disabled, said their polling place did not have adequate space and required waiting times of up to three hours in cold conditions.

As a result, Olson said the next day some of the residents outside his building had some severe chest and coughing problems.

“We did our duty,” he said. “I’m just glad we didn’t die from it though.”

In Minneapolis, 25 percent of voters registered on Election Day, according to City Clerk Casey Carl.

However, he said the 2012 election was not a typical case.

“Ballot content primarily drives voter turnout,” he said.

He added that a number of factors, including the presidential election and redistricting, resulted in the highest turnout experienced in Minneapolis since 1971.

To alleviate future long lines and wait times, he recommended the state allow early voting. Unlike absentee ballots, Carl said early voting ensures the accuracy of the ballot.

About 400 absentee votes were initially rejected due to voter error, he said. After staff took “extraordinary” means to reach out to voters, about 200 absentee votes were still rejected, he said.

Committee Chairman Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) suggested electronic poll books, which could streamline the registration and verification processes may also be a solution.

Carl and the Blue Earth County election judges agreed.

“The human error would be cut out a lot,” Braunhausen said.

- Liz Stoever


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