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Minnesota was named one of 15 "All-Star" states on Tuesday for promoting and protecting the voting rights of the state's military service members and their families.
The Military Voter Protection Project, working with the Legacy Foundation, named the states for several reasons, including efforts to work with local military installations and National Guard units to provide on-base voter assistance; use of electronic and Web-based services to send election materials; work in the Legislature to eliminate barriers, and ensuring absentee military ballots are sent out no later than 45 days before the election.
Service members and their families have often found the electoral process failing them. In the 2008 election, for instance, thousands of absentee military ballots were never received or came after the election. In a presidential election year, the issue is expected to take on added importance, with a military force totaling more than 3 million, including active-duty and reserve forces.
The other states were Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Before he took office, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, whose office coordinates elections and voting, made military voting a campaign priority. While the state often led the country in voter participation, its numbers of military voters were near the bottom. His office worked to implement suggestions made by the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which coordinates voting efforts for members of the military and their families.
Left unclear now, though, is how a proposed constitutional amendment on voter ID might affect military voters. Unlike other states with voter ID laws, the Minnesota proposal, which is on the ballot in November, provides no exemptions for military voters, absentee voters, senior citizens living in nursing homes and others.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434