State Rep. Steve Simon, a Democrat vying to replace Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, said on Wednesday that Minnesota should move to "true early voting."

This year, for the first time, the state has allowed any voter to cast an absentee ballot in elections. But Simon, who is chair of the House elections committee, said Minnesota should go further.

"Minnesota should join 33 states and the District of Columbia in expanding early voting," Simon said in a news release.

He said early voting, which would allow Minnesotans to cast ballots and have them processed weeks before the election, would be a net cost saver for local election offices.

Early voting has long been a Democratic goal in Minnesota but has lacked Republican support. Simon said the proposal would have to have bipartisan support in the Legislature to win his backing.

Republican secretary of state candidate Dan Severson, who came within 70,000 votes of besting Ritchie among the 2 million votes cast in 2010 , said he would also support early voting.

"I support early voting as long as we have a verifiable registration system," Severson, a former state House member, said.

Simon this week also released a television ad. Severson said he would release one in the final weeks of the election.

Photo: Rep. Steve Simon