A majority of Minnesotans support a proposal to mail ballots to every registered voter in the state, a measure aimed at addressing fears that the coronavirus pandemic could stretch into Election Day.

The proposal by Secretary of State Steve Simon received a cool reception from Republicans in the Legislature and was not included in an elections bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz this month. It echoes a national debate over expanded voting by mail during the corona­virus pandemic, a move President Donald Trump has warned will encourage voter fraud.

Fifty-nine percent of people who participated in a Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll said they support the proposal, which would allow every registered voter in Minnesota to automatically receive a ballot by mail for the November elections; 37% were opposed, 4% were undecided.

The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, surveyed 800 registered voters in Minnesota May 18-20.

The proposal had nearly universal — 97% — support among people who identify as DFLers. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans, meanwhile, oppose the idea. Men were roughly split on the proposal, while more than two-thirds of women said they support it. It also had higher support among voters younger than 34.

Voters now can cast a ballot by mail if they fill out an application. About a quarter of Minnesota voters in the 2018 midterms voted by mail, though more are expected to do so this year as people avoid crowded polling places. Simon’s proposal would mail ballots to every registered voter in the state.

“From a health standpoint … why take unnecessary risks?” said Minneapolis resident Joan Flaaten, a retired health care worker. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Flaaten said she typically votes in person because it is easy and she likes the excitement of being around people on Election Day. But given the coronavirus, she said, she would probably choose to cast her ballot by mail.

“Pandemic or not, I think everyone should have easy access to vote,” Flaaten said. “And the easiest way to do that is by mail.”

Advocates for mail-in voting argue that it is already deeply entrenched in American politics. Nationally, more than a quarter of ballots were cast by mail in 2018. Five states — Hawaii, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Colorado — will hold all-mail elections this year. And in 28 states and the District of Columbia, voters have the right to request a mail ballot without excuse. Voting by mail is also the standard way for members of the armed services to participate in elections.

But Cody Jacobson, an iron worker who lives in Buffalo, said the proposal would open the door to voter fraud. He noted the recent stories of federal stimulus checks being sent to dead people.

“You’re not going to get an honest election doing that, I don’t think,” Jacobson said.

He said the proposal could lead to family members voting on behalf of relatives in comas, for example, or people trying to buy other people’s ballots.

Simon has said he will continue to encourage Minnesotans to seek mail-in ballots.

 

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