The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 12, 2013

Our View: Early voting makes active democracy easier

— Almost every imaginable consumer business has at one time or another adjusted its services and hours of operation to fit the needs of its customers, but when it comes to government, some don't seem to want to make participating easier.

Opponents of early voting legislation seem to reject the idea that voters -- customers -- will find it easier to vote if there are more options for time and place. The opponents worry about small, largely unproven, risks that there are somehow dozens of grannies waiting around every dark corner ready to lunge at the opportunity to commit voter fraud.

Fortunately, there appears to be a majority of legislators in DFL-controlled House and Senate committees dealing with the bill who favor the legislation.

But there remain opponents to such one-stop democracy. As the bill was being debated recently, opponents who pushed for the failed voter ID amendment last year were raising their red herring flags again. They argued elections fraud would abound and be controlled by party bosses who know how to "cheat the best."

Nonsense. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in any of the other states that have early voting or in the country as a whole.

The next argument ventured so far into esoterica, it seemed destined for a law school dissertation. Opponents argued that Minnesota requires the election be held on a certain day, not 15 days before. But only voting would take place 15 days before. Officials from the Secretary of State's Office doubted that legal premise would hold, but were willing to research it.

And the current system already allows early voting through the absentee voting system. We doubt it could somehow now be deemed illegal.

Thousands of votes were cast in the last election through the absentee system which allows early voting for those who won't be able to make it on election day. The votes would still be counted by law on election day as would other early voting.

Seniors and disabled voters argued at a recent hearing on the proposal that early voting would make it much easier for them to vote. Some find it difficult to stand in long waiting lines on election day and in other cases, the weather might be an impediment.

There are very few risks to Minnesota adopting early voting as examples in other states have shown. There is, however, much to be gained.

More people might vote and it would clearly be easier to vote. Participating in democracy should be easy. It shouldn't be like a store that's closed on nights and weekends when working people need to do business.

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