In the three days leading up to Super Tuesday, the Democratic primary field shrank by more than a third. The 11th-hour shake-up dramatically changed the contours of the race. But for some Minnesotans, the shift had another, more personal effect: It rendered their ballots essentially obsolete.
Minnesotans who cast an early ballot, an option available since Jan. 17, discovered as the dust settled Tuesday that it was too late to change their vote, even if their original pick was no longer in the running. While state law does allow early voters to “claw back” a ballot, the deadline was one week before Election Day.
The experience has prompted some to propose changing the law. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said his wife was among those who felt “disenfranchised” by the inability to redo her vote. Given the tumultuous nature of presidential nominating contests, when candidates can drop out at any moment, Martin thinks lawmakers should consider “more aggressive ways to make sure people can claw back a vote.”
“I think this is something we’re going to have to grapple with as a party and also as a state,” he said, noting that the number of Minnesotans voting early continues to rise.
Even with complaints, such change appears unlikely to gain traction. Like most deadlines, the seven-day clawback limit exists for a reason. Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office said it’s needed to “allow county election officials enough time to process absentee ballots.”
“A shortened period would likely create a number of logistical challenges that could impact getting election results in a timely manner,” a spokeswoman said.
State Rep. Ray Dehn, chair of a House election committee, said lawmakers will have to consider a number of issues that arose in the state’s first presidential primary since 1992, including questions about voter data privacy. But he, too, said changing the clawback provision could create “logistical issues.” “That’s a pretty laborious process, to pull them back,” he said.
Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips has a different solution. The freshman Democrat introduced legislation to provide more funding for state and local governments that make the switch to ranked-choice voting. Under that system, already used in local elections for some local cities, voters rank multiple candidates on one ballot.
“On #SuperTuesday, I remind you that #RCV counts early voters’ 2nd choice if their 1st choice candidate drops out,” Phillips tweeted. “It’s time.”
Absent changes, Dehn has a suggestion for voters worried about a race in flux: Wait until the field is settled before casting your ballot.
“In these hotly contested primary-type things, most places you can vote early absentee until the day before,” he said. “You can wait as long as you want to, and still vote at your convenience, if you’re unable to find a way to vote on the actual primary day.”
State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, warned against putting pressure to change votes on election officials: “It should be up to the voter to make a careful, informed decision, and that may mean it’s wiser to wait until Election Day to cast your ballot.”