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Ritchie Discusses Proposed Voting Legislation

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MANKATO, Minn. -

Proposed legislation in St. Paul could change how you vote.

Proposed legislation going through the state talks about expanding voting options in the hopes of making the process more flexible.

"Last year of course we had the state's largest election ever.  We were again first in the nation, it was very great, very smooth election, but also lots of ideas came forth and so people met around the state, down in Mankato, everywhere, and talking about some things that can make it even better and also cut some of the costs," says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

The 'No Excuse Absentee Balloting' bill proposes that Minnesotans could cast an absentee ballot without providing one of the five excuses currently allowed.  Those reasons are: absence from your precinct, illness or disability, serving as an election judge in another precinct, religious discipline or observance of religious holiday, and any emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by the federal or state government.

Patty O'Connor, Director of Taxpayer Services for Blue Earth County, says, "Well we would expect from about a 20% absentee return rate ratcheting up to 30 to 40 to 50 the more people get used to the idea that they can vote absentee without a reason."

While providing more ease to the voter, it would cost the county more due to increased paperwork and additional time to prepare and sort absentee ballots.

Another proposal, commonly known as Early Voting, would make it possible to cast your vote up to two weeks in advance.  Voting would be done in city hall or other government office and your vote would go directly into the machine, meaning mistakes can be fixed on site.  The vote would not be counted until Election Day and you wouldn't be able to change your vote.  O'Connor states, "We'd have to ramp up our staff, but we're here anyway, so for us it will not cost more that I can see, it's going to save us, especially if no excuse absentee voting passes, that will ratchet up on our cost we believe to about $25,000 to $30,000 and if we implement early voting, that brings the costs down to about $7,000."

Cutting costs are just one thing; it would help to cut down on the long lines that are so common on Election Day.  "But in many parts of our state when everyone, because we are number one in turnout, we turn out a lot of people, this opportunity to vote and be done with the process reduces the number of people that need to come through the door," Secretary Ritchie says.

Other proposed legislation would expand mail voting, lowering the recount threshold, and address felon notifications when voting.  Secretary Ritchie also stresses the need for our young voters to vote.  "By bringing in these just turning 18 year olds into our system.  Some are in the military, we need to make sure they can really vote.  Some are in school, we need to make sure they can vote," says Secretary Ritchie.