Every voting precinct in 85 of Minnesota’s 87 counties received a grant this year from the Secretary of State’s office to offset the cost of new voting equipment, but the grant process shows there’s still a great need for replacing the aging election gear.
Because of a law passed during last year’s special session, Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office distributed $7 million in matching-grant funds for counties, cities and townships to replace counting machines, voting devices and electronic rosters. Simon on Thursday told the House State Government Finance Committee that every precinct requesting funds received an equal amount: $1,858.
The irony, Simon pointed out, is that Minnesota became a state in 1858.
“It’s a real success story,” Simon said. “And I think all of you should know that you own a big part of this. This would not have happened, obviously, without this legislation. It was much needed.”
But applications from 85 counties and 17 municipalities revealed a much bigger ask – $13.3 million. Ninety-seven jurisdictions requested $8.19 million for electronic rosters and 59 requested $5.09 million for precinct counters, central counters or assisted voting devices, Simon said.
Last session, Simon and Gov. Mark Dayton requested double – $14 million – than the Legislature included in the budget for grants. Simon estimated the overall cost to replace aging election equipment, predominantly in Greater Minnesota, hovers around $28 million.
“We have heard that there is still a need for additional funding,” said Carri-Ann Alleman, Harris town clerk and Minnesota Association of Townships’ communications and outreach coordinator.
Citing the “very, very real threat of people seeking to undermine” election systems throughout the U.S., including here in Minnesota, Simon told lawmakers, “It’s getting to the point now that we need to put resources behind it.”
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