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Minnesota Legislature

Election officials push for expanded electronic voting systems OK under state law

House Photography file photo

A vast number of assistive voting machines across Minnesota are nearing the end of their usable life and the top choice of most Minnesota counties to replace that equipment can’t currently be certified by the state, the state’s top election official told House lawmakers on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Steve Simon is pushing for a bill that would expand the type of electronic voting systems that can be certified for use to include those that produce a marked paper ballot using a touch screen or other electronic device.

HF1098 — sponsored by Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton) and held over by the House Subcommittee on Elections for possible inclusion in an omnibus elections bill — would allow the use of multiple types of alternative electronic voting systems at the same election location.

Current law requires that all voting systems in a precinct must be produced by the same vendor. Simon says that provision is preventing 80 of 87 Minnesota counties from replacing outdated equipment with new assistive voting machines of their choice.

The secretary of state’s office certifies voting machines for use by local election administrators. Simon said that because of the current law, his office cannot certify the machine preferred by the majority of counties across the state.

Those counties are currently using old assistive voting machines increasingly prone to malfunctioning, he said. They can be clunky to use and difficult to fix because of hard-to-find replacement parts.

“If this bill does not pass, it will be another election cycle where 80 of 87 counties are stuck with voting systems they do not like,” Simon said.

A companion, SF1566 sponsored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee. 

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