Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said Thursday that he is considering mail-in balloting and expanded absentee voting to keep Minnesota’s August primary and November general election on track amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is important that we be prepared for a different kind of election than we’re used to,” Simon said. “There are many options available, and which one we use will depend on what our world looks like on Election Day.”
Simon said those options include mailing each registered voter a ballot to complete at home and return by mail. His office could also encourage Minnesotans to vote absentee.
Simon is looking to reduce the number of polling places by limiting polling locations to centralized facilities and moving them out of areas deemed vulnerable, such as senior care centers.
“No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Simon said.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also has been trying to pass federal legislation that would expand early voting and absentee voting by mail in all states. Her plan would reimburse states for the extra costs associated with administering elections during the pandemic.
The $2.2 trillion emergency COVID-19 aid package approved by the U.S. Senate late Wednesday provides $400 million for states to get started on such measures. But Klobuchar said Thursday that the amount was “not enough.” Her legislation, sponsored alongside U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would also provide money to hire and train new poll workers in anticipation that current workers who are vulnerable to the virus may need to stay home.
“There’s no reason we can’t get on top of this,” Klobuchar said. “There might have been issues with people ... not getting the testing out there. We don’t want to have that happen to our entire democracy.”
Simon’s initiative follows recommendations by a new bipartisan National Task Force on Election Crises, which urged election officials nationwide to deem the coronavirus a “legally sufficient ‘excuse’ to enable absentee voting by all eligible voters.”