Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Election Day free rides bill survives bumpy hearing

House Photography file photo

Offering free rides to the polls on Election Day may sound like a relatively simple, noncontroversial idea, but the House Government Operations Committee found out otherwise Thursday.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Mpls) to require some public transit providers to offer free service on the day of the state’s general election met stiff resistance.

Members approved HF489, and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee, but did so on a 9-8 roll-call vote along party lines. The companion, SF499, is sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) and awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

Dehn’s bill would include transit systems that receive operating assistance from the state. They include Metro Transit, some suburban providers and others around the state.

But Republicans raised concerns about people who live in areas not well served, or served at all, by public transit.

Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) called the bill “grossly unfair” because cities in his district have no bus service. He said if it were to become law it would be purposely “disenfranchising” people who don’t have access to the rides.

Those concerns were echoed by Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River) who said it’s important that anything done is equitable across the state.

“We see a giant transportation network, including buses, trains and a pretty sophisticated transportation system, ready to be turned on in the metropolitan area,” Zerwas said. “In my neck of the woods, in Sherburne County, if someone wanted to use public transportation to go to the polls they could put in a call two or three days in advance … it just doesn’t work the same.”

Dehn said he understood the concerns and has a meeting scheduled with the Department of Transportation to see what else can be done to offer free rides more widely. He said the bill is meant to help people who don’t have cars or others who can help them vote, adding that the state also offered free transit during the 2014 general election and encountered very few problems.

“Just as we have beer companies supporting rides on St. Patrick’s Day, and other events, this is where we’re stepping forward as a state of Minnesota and saying that voting is important and we’re going to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to get to the polls,” Dehn said.

Related Articles

Priority Dailies

Rep. Diane Loeffler passes away
Rep. Diane Loeffler (DFL-Mpls) passed away Saturday. An email from House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), said that Loeffler, serving her eighth term in the...
State Fair poll shows steady support for gun sale background checks, recreational marijuana
Support for criminal background checks on all gun sales and the legalization of marijuana for recreational use appears to have remained steady among Minnesotans during the past 12 months.
Governor signs special session budget bills into law
One week after a marathon special session that saw lawmakers pass most of the major budget bills needed to fund the state’s government over the next two years, Gov. Tim Walz signed the legislation into law.
After sunrise, the sun sets on 2019 special session
It took a grueling special session that stretched past sunrise, but Minnesota lawmakers completed their work early Saturday morning on passing a new two-year state budget.

Minnesota House on Twitter