SAINT PAUL — Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon lauded the Minnesota Legislature today for passing one of his major priorities aimed at giving equal voting protections to all members of the National Guard and pledged to “continue to strive to reduce barriers to voting for all eligible Minnesotans.” The bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
The bill (HF 501/SF 297), authored by Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) and Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL-St. Paul) and included in the Elections Omnibus Bill, allows members of the National Guard who are called to service by the state the use of the same accommodations for voting as those called to service by the federal government. There are 13,000 National Guard members in Minnesota.
“Service is service, and today Minnesota made it clear that if you put on the uniform of this country you will be guaranteed equal protections and accommodations when you vote,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. “I will keep working to make it easier to vote for all eligible Minnesotans, especially for those serving our country at home and overseas.”
Currently, Minnesota election law provides special voting procedures for members of the military, but the definition of “military” excludes members of the National Guard when they are called to duty by the state.
This legislation would expand the definition of “military” to include members of the National Guard activated for state service and would allow them to use the special Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) procedures for voting. These procedures include the ability to receive their ballot by email (must be returned by mail) and reduced paperwork.
Secretary Simon testified in favor of the bill in February in the House Veterans Affairs Division Committee.
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