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Minnesota Legislature

House OKs elections bill that aims to minimize risk of voting amidst pandemic

would establish special procedures for the 2020 elections intended to minimize risks of spreading the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in the course of administering this year’s primary and general elections. House Photography file photo

House lawmakers on Monday passed a bipartisan package of elections measures meant to keep Minnesota’s voters and poll workers safe in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The House OK’d HF3429, sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), on a 119-14 vote. The legislation would establish special procedures for the 2020 elections intended to minimize risks of spreading the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in the course of administering this year’s primary and general elections.

HF3429 debated on House Floor 5/4/20

“Minnesotans should be proud of the bipartisan work that has been done to be sure Minnesotans don't have to make a choice between participating in our democracy in the most fundamental way and their health,” said Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Mpls), chair of the House Subcommittee on Elections.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the sponsor.

Under the bill, local election officials would be authorized to:

  • designate new polling places until July 1;
  • allow employees of health care facilities and hospitals to administer absentee ballots to residents or patients in their facilities; and
  • extend the period during which absentee ballots can be processed — to up to three days after the election — to give election officials more time to deal with what is expected to be an increase in absentee voting.

The bill would also alter deadlines for parties to submit the names of candidates to be nominated as presidential electors for the 2020 election. Current law states those names must be submitted no later than 71 days before Election Day; the proposed change would require they be submitted by 67 days to better accommodate the dates of the major party national conventions this fall that have been pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Appropriating HAVA dollars

HF3429 would also appropriate another wave of federal election security funding made available to the state in December 2019 under the Help America Vote Act.

In almost all other states, money flows directly to state elections officials, but in Minnesota, state statute requires funds first be specifically appropriated by the Legislature. The funds — which would be appropriated to the secretary of state’s office — could be used for things like additional training of local elections officials, strengthening cybersecurity efforts and helping local jurisdictions offset costs they may face after rigorous testing of their voting infrastructure.

Funds appropriated under the bill are available until Dec. 21, 2024. In order to use them, a 20% state match — or approximately $1.5 million — is required by December 2021. The bill does not appropriate funds to meet that match.


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