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Two dozen states now have laws allowing online voter registration.
Some states have gone further. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 33 states now allow early voting either in-person or by mail, and 27 states don’t require a reason for requesting an absentee ballot.
Most states still have traditional polling places, but three states — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — have moved to all mail-in voting, with limited provisions made for in-person voting. In Minnesota, townships with fewer than 400 registered voters are allowed to use vote-by-mail.
Absentee surge expected
The combination of rapid-fire changes to Minnesota’s voting laws means voters can now register, request an absentee ballot, receive it and cast it without ever going farther than their mailbox.
“Voting is now easier than ever in Minnesota,” said DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin.
For election officials, the new absentee rules could mean an avalanche of early ballots. In November 2010, nearly 130,000 voters cast absentee ballots. That number could double this year.
“We’re expecting to have higher volumes of absentee ballots,” said Gelms, of Hennepin County.
Officials in Hennepin, the state’s most populous county, have been preparing for months. In February they began reassessing their system and pulled together election officials from across the country to look at more-efficient processes. By May the county had adopted new policies and completed training of local clerks, Gelms said.
Partisans will find another plus in the new absentee ballot system. For a fee, the secretary of state’s office will make available lists of those who’ve voted absentee. That will allow campaigns to find out who has already voted and aim their resources at those who remain in play.
Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey said the party has been planning such a targeting program for months.
“Anyone who has ever gotten a handful of people at their door or people on their phones after they have already submitted an absentee ballot should appreciate the fact that we will be able to do that,” Downey said with a laugh.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @RachelSB