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Secretary Simon: Elections Bill Expands Right to Time Off From Work to Vote, Creates Elections Emergency Planning Taskforce

May 18, 2015

“Minnesotans should have the right to vote in all regularly scheduled elections without it negatively impacting their pay or vacation time, and today we successfully guaranteed that right."

SAINT PAUL — Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon praised the passage today of several pieces of legislation he pushed to have included in the Elections Omnibus Bill, including one that ensures voters can get time off to vote in ALL regularly scheduled elections.

The elections bill also included a provision supported by Secretary Simon that sets up an emergency planning taskforce to ensure Minnesota is prepared if a natural disaster, blizzard, or other large scale incident occurs affecting an election.

“Minnesotans should have the right to vote in all regularly scheduled elections without it negatively impacting their pay or vacation time, and today we successfully guaranteed that right,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. “The elections bill passed by the legislature today takes several important steps that will make it easier for all eligible Minnesotans to vote and ensure Minnesota is prepared to administer efficient and secure elections in all situations.”

Expanding the Right to Time Off From Work to Vote: Secretary Simon successfully pushed for voters to be able to get time off from work to vote in ALL regularly scheduled elections. Currently, Minnesota law says voters can only get time off for state or federal elections, but that does not include municipal races like those in St. Paul or Duluth this November.

As it exists now, the Voter’s Bill of Rights says: “You have the right to be absent from work for the purpose of voting in a state or federal election without reduction to your pay, personal leave, or vacation time on election day for the time necessary to appear at your polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work.”

The provision Secretary Simon backed in the Elections Omnibus Bill ensures that voters can get time off to vote in ALL regularly scheduled elections (federal, state, county and municipal), not just those that are conducted in conjunction with a state or federal election. The bill (SF 455 / HF 840) was authored by Sen. Katie Sieben and Rep. Tim Sanders.

Elections Emergency Planning Taskforce: Secretary Simon supported the creation of an elections emergency planning taskforce. While Minnesota is well-equipped to deal with issues affecting one or two polling locations, there is additional work needed to ensure that Minnesota is prepared if a natural disaster, blizzard, or other large scale incident occurs affecting an election.

The taskforce will ensure Minnesota has a plan in place that is within the bounds of the Governor, Secretary of State and local government’s legal authority. It will bring together experts in election administration, emergency preparedness and emergency response, and examine the following issues:

  • Potential emergency scenarios that could impact elections
  • The current state and local capacity and authority to address emergency situations
  • Maintaining ballot security in the event of an emergency
  • Continuity of operation procedures and
  • Communications plans and emergency networks

The taskforce will report to the legislature by January 1, 2016 with a summary of its findings, including a list of recommendations for the development of elections emergency plans statewide. The bill (SF 1228) was authored by Sen. Katie Sieben.

Absentee Ballot Return by FedEx: Secretary Simon successfully pushed to make sure absentee ballots by FedEx or other package delivery services were accepted until polls close. The provision allows absentee ballots arriving via a package delivery service to be accepted after the last US Mail delivery but before 8pm on Election Day. Many overseas voters, in particular, use package delivery services to ensure Election-Day delivery.

Under current law, if a ballot arrives via a package delivery service but after the last US mail delivery, which could be as early as 11 a.m., the ballot is rejected. The bill (SF 455 / HF 840) was authored by Sen. Katie Sieben and Rep. Tim Sanders.

Allowing Modern Ballot Design for Easier Readability: Secretary Simon pushed to remove the requirement that the name of each candidate be printed in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Studies show that using mixed upper and lower case letters is easier for voters to read and comprehend, and is recommended by the Election Assistance Commission, the National Institute on Aging, the American Printing House for the Blind, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The bill also allows for ballot instructions to be printed in upper and lower case letters. The bill (SF 455 / HF 840) was authored by Sen. Katie Sieben and Rep. Tim Sanders.

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Contact: Ryan Furlong, (651) 297-8919, ryan.furlong@state.mn.us

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