The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

June 18, 2013

Close voting gap

Why it matters: Minnesota lags behind most states and our neighbors in user-friendly voting

Minnesotans take pride in leading the country in everything from health care to education, but we remain behind our neighbors and most of the country in user-friendly voting.

All of our neighboring states as well as Illinois allow citizens to not only vote absentee with little trouble but also to vote before Election Day, according to a report in MinnPost, the online public affairs news site. In essence, we have a voting convenience gap.

The Legislature and governor approved bipartisan election reforms this year. The biggest change came in absentee voting where, like other states, those who vote absentee no do not have to give a specific reason. It is known as no-excuse absentee voting.

In the past, absentee voters were required to state a reason they couldn’t make it to their polling place on Election Day. Many fudged reasons, experts argue, just because they wanted to vote early. Others, elderly for example, may have wanted to vote absentee but didn’t feel comfortable fudging a reason other than it was just more convenient for them.

With the change to no-excuse absentee voting, officials expect some of those barriers to be removed and see it as one step to make voting more convenient. That should be the goal. In a consumer-oriented society where service is king, the government should embrace improving service to its “taxpayer-customers.”

Approving early voting would be a step in that direction.

Democrats controlling the Legislature garnered bipartisan support for the no-excuse absentee voting but were not as successful in building support with Republicans for early voting.

Opponents contend that early voting increases risks of voter fraud. That doesn’t seem to have happened in the 32 states that allow early voting as well as no-excuse absentee voting. The requirements for voter registration and identification have not changed, so it’s hard to see why there would be more fraud.

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