Crowded polls could be addressed by early voting, Legislature told
January 17, 2013 — 2:30pm
Crowds at the polls in Minneapolis could be eased if more voters could cast their ballots before election day, a House committee was told Thursday.
The House Elections Committee heard two Minneapolis voters describe polling place crowds on Nov. 6 that resulted in waits of several hours. Voter Dean Reichwald said he came back several times and finally voted, but saw many voters leave rather than wait in line.
"For every person like me that goes back three times, I'm sure there were people like me that don't go back," he told the committee.
Dean Olson, who lives in the Seward neighborhood, said he experienced a two and one-half hour wait, and it appeared to him that there was not sufficient staff at the polling place.
Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl told the committee that a presidential election with two constitutional amendments on the ballot drove turnout, and redistricting further added to the complexity of the election. He said one in four voters registered at the polls on election day, which produced additional work for election judges.
He urged the Legislature to consider some form of expanded voting before election day. Two options are "early voting," in which voters can cast ballots as they do at the polls during a specified period before the election; and no-excuse absentee voting, allowing voters to cast absentee ballots without stating a reason, as is currently required.
Carl said early voting, as is practiced in 32 states and the District of Columbia, requires less administrative work than expanded absentee voting.
DFLers are interested in early voting, but GOP leaders have been skeptical. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he will insist that any election-law change have significant bipartisan support, meaning GOP objections could kill the idea this year.
North Carolina officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to keep a voter identification requirement and 10 days of early voting for the November election, even after a lower appeals court ruled these changes illegally restricted voting by blacks.