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House DFLers introduce new legislation to defend and strengthen our democracy

Thursday, January 21, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Today, House DFL leaders and legislators introduced new legislation to defend and strengthen our democracy, which has been tested by disinformation, division, and attacks on voters that culminated in a violent insurrection at our nation’s Capital. The bill, authored by Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL - Minneapolis), aims to build a strong, inclusive democracy that works for Minnesotans of every race, region, political party, and generation. 

“This is a critical moment for our democracy,” said Rep. Greenman. “As Minnesotans and Americans, we must work together to protect and expand the right to vote and build a resilient, inclusive democracy centered on peoples’ needs and voices.”

In response to escalating attempts to undermine free and fair elections, the bill defends Minnesota voters and our democratic institutions. It prohibits intimidating and harassing voters or elections officials and using deceptive practices to disenfranchise voters. The bill also ensures state and local elections officials can access the critical federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds they need for election security and infrastructure.

“Now is a critical time to bring forth legislation that further secures our democracy and defends our right to free and fair elections,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL - New Hope). “Restored voting rights to our community members will give us a chance to center voices that have been silenced in the past. Voting accessibility — early in-person, by mail, or on election day — is a vital component of the free practice of democracy with consideration to language, disability, and transportation barriers. Accessibility is freedom.

The bill establishes automatic voter registration, allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and restores the right to vote for Minnesotans who are on probation or parole. It also strengthens absentee voting by creating a permanent absentee ballot list, establishing ballot drop box and return sites, removing the witness requirement, and ensuring voting instructions for absentee ballots are provided in multiple languages. 

“The hard work of preserving our democracy lies in each of us.  We are here to boldly suggest that our path forward is not to constrict the will of the people but to expand it, to celebrate it.” said Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL - Maple Grove). “If the record turnout of the last election has taught us anything, it is that Americans regardless of ideology and background are clamoring to claim their right to vote.”

In addition to closing dark money loopholes, the bill takes steps to increase transparency and unveil who is spending money to influence our elections. Outside groups that spend large amounts of money will be required to disclose their three largest donors. The disclosure process for online and digital advertising will be modified as well. 

"Recent events have made it clear our democracy is fragile. Now, we must work to protect and strengthen it," said Speaker Melissa Hortman. "Our state works best when everyone's voices are heard, no matter what we look like or where we live. Our legislation will improve our democratic system, and ensure our democracy and government are responsive to the voices of all Minnesotans."

The legislation modernizes the Political Contribution Refund (PCR) program, replacing it with Democracy Dollars coupons that are available to all registered Minnesota voters. It empowers voters and small donors with a small donor public financing match program for candidates and the creation of small donor committees for grassroots efforts. 

“The people’s voice in American democracy has prevailed, and the lawless actions that took place on January 6, 2021 in our nation’s capital prove that we cannot take free and fair elections for granted,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Here in Minnesota, House Democrats are determined to defend and strengthen our democracy. We know that corporations, the rich, and well-connected have an unfair advantage in shaping electoral outcomes and public policy, and the legislation we’re introducing today begins to level the playing field."

The bill also improves Minnesota’s redistricting process. It sets fair criteria for lawmakers to follow when drawing and evaluating maps and creates a public process to solicit Minnesotans’ input, make redistricting data available to the public, and provide advance notice of maps and hearings. 

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