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Duluth News Tribune | Our View: Election equipment a coming expense

April 13, 2017

“Getting out ahead of this before Minnesota becomes the next “Florida in 2000,” simply put, would be responsible.”

Duluth News Tribune | Our View: Election equipment a coming expense
By Editorial Board, 4/11/17

After the embarrassment and exasperation of the 2000 presidential election — recall the dragged-out recounting in Florida, the infamous “hanging chads” and “pregnant chads,” the never-ending debates over voter intent, and more — Congress came up with the Help America Vote Act to make sure it never happened again.

Among other reforms, the act led to $3.3 billion in spending to replace outmoded voting equipment.

But that federal funding source has since dried up. And a lot of the new voting equipment it bought isn’t so new anymore. In fact, in Minnesota and in 42 other states, according to one analysis, it’s reaching the end of what was expected to be 10- to 15-year lifespans.

In Minnesota, $28 million is needed right now — or very soon — to update equipment and assure future elections, as Secretary of State Steve Simon has been saying to anyone who’ll listen. Recently that included members of the News Tribune editorial board.

“Are we in a crisis? No. But if we wait until the 2018 election or, certainly, the 2020 election, (we could be),” Simon said. “It’s the old saying: You’ve got to dig your well before you’re thirsty. We want to get out ahead of this.”

The quickly coming need for big bucks for voting equipment is an almost-exclusively a rural-Minnesota problem, according to Simon. That’s because metro-area counties — including Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, and Anoka counties — all recently took it upon themselves to find funding and update equipment. They’re good to go.


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Mankato Free Press: Voting: Investment in election equipment needed

March 2, 2017

“But an upgrade to vote counting machines that are near the end of their life seems like a modest investment in securing the integrity of our most important right."

Mankato Free Press | Our View: Voting: Investment in election equipment needed
By Editorial Board, 3/1/17

While the contested presidential election of 2000 may seem like a distant memory, the vote counting mishaps of that time need to be revisited, mostly by upgrading vote-counting equipment.

The Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 was Congress' attempt to make sure our national voting system was sound mechanically and of solid integrity. Congress allocated $3 billion to the states to upgrade all voting equipment. Most of the equipment was purchased by 2005 to 2007 with a 10 to 15 year maximum life, according to Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

When it came time to replace and upgrade the equipment, there was no new federal money. So states had to pick up the slack. Simon’s office is backing a bipartisan bill that would allocate about $14 million statewide to upgrade voting equipment. That would go toward a 50-50 match program with counties to share the full $28 million cost of the upgrades.

Much of the money would be spent in outstate counties, as Ramsey, Anoka and much of Hennepin counties have already upgraded their equipment, according to Simon.

It’s a reasonable proposal and one that we urge the Legislature and governor to approve.


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Mankato Free Press: Gusties give secretary of state tips on voter turnout

February 13, 2017

Minnesota regained its title of having the highest voter turnout in the country and "you did your part to get Minnesota back where we belong," Simon told [students at Gustavus Adolphus College].

Mankato Free Press: Gusties give secretary of state tips on voter turnout
By Kristine Goodrich, 2/13/17

ST. PETER — Minnesota's secretary of state paid a visit to Gustavus Adolphus College Monday to award accolades as well as to accept advice.

After bestowing a trophy to the college for having the highest voter registration rate, Steve Simon asked students what keeps more young people from going to the polls.

Gustavus won the inaugural Minnesota College Ballot Bowl. The Secretary of State Office's contest challenged the state's public and private universities to register the most student voters for the 2016 General Election.

Sixty-three percent of Gustavus students were registered by the end of the challenge. That was the highest percentage of any college. The over 1,300 registered Gusties was the highest number of all private colleges. The highest percentage of students registered at a public institution was 24 percent at Winona State University.

“Not only did you win. You blew the door off. No one else was even close,” Simon told students and faculty gathered in the recently re-opened A.H. Anderson Hall.

Minnesota regained its title of having the highest voter turnout in the country and “you did your part to get Minnesota back where we belong,” Simon told the Gusties.

A voter education committee with student volunteers from campus political and leadership groups led the registration campaign. Senior committee member Sean Hinnenkamp said they used a mix of electronic notices and on-campus events to help students get registered and either vote absentee in their hometown or get to the polls in St. Peter.

Many of those committee members plus a few other politically active students talked with the secretary of state about college students' attitudes toward voting.


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It's finally official: Minnesota returns to number one in voter turnout nationwide

February 10, 2017

While we already celebrated Minnesota getting back to number in voter turnout, it's finally official! The United States Elections Project finished their turnout rate analysis of all 50 states and Minnesota is at the top! 

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Mesabi Daily News: Simon Says State Needs To Help Upgrade Machines

February 6, 2017

“We don’t want a repeat of Florida in 2000,” Simon said. “This is expensive stuff … we have to make sure the system is in good shape.”

Mesabi Daily News: Simon Says State Needs To Help Upgrade Machines
By Jerry Burnes, 2/6/17

VIRGINIA — Minnesota’s voting equipment is aging out, and without legislative help, the burden of about $28 million in replacement costs will fall squarely on cities and counties.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met Monday with the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools to drum up support for a state-funded solution to voting infrastructure now more than a decade old. He’s not asking for the Legislature to foot the bill for the entire cost, rather follow Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal calling for a 50-50 split between the state and local governments.

Covering half the cost — about $14 million — would keep the state on pace with efforts in Maryland and Michigan.

“We think local government should have some skin in the game,” Simon said during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News.

After a disastrous election in 2000, marred by hanging chads in Florida and a presidential recount in the state between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002.

HAVA provided one-time federal funds to purchase election equipment for all 50 states. More than a decade later, that equipment is nearing the end of its lifespan, and Congress isn’t backing another round of spending.

Cities and counties are now on the hook to buy new voting equipment, which at about $10,000 per polling place, puts a squeeze on greater Minnesota. Simon said larger counties like Hennepin and Ramsey already started replacing machines, but rural counties are going to struggle.

He isn’t describing the need as a crisis — yet — “but wait until 2018 or 2020, and you’re flirting with real bad outcomes.”


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NEW: Register to vote while filing your taxes electronically

January 24, 2017

Good news! Minnesotans filing their taxes this year electronically through a state-approved vendor, such as H&R Block or TurboTax, will now see a new message prompting them to register to vote online at!

While Minnesota has over 3.2 million registered voters, an additional 700,000 citizens are eligible, but have not yet registered to vote. Read more at Minnesota Public Radio, "Doing your taxes? Why not register to vote, too?"

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'Minnesotans honor Dr. King’s life’s work and legacy every time they exercise their right to vote'

January 16, 2017

"We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today and every day for his lifelong fight for equality and justice, and for standing up for the rights of millions of Americans to make their voices heard.

Minnesotans honor Dr. King’s life’s work and legacy every time they exercise their right to vote, which Minnesotans did in record numbers this past election. We must not take for granted the progress that’s been made. It is imperative that we continue Dr. King’s work to protect, defend, and strengthen the right to vote for all Americans." - Secretary of State Steve Simon

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Star Tribune: Congrats, Minnesotans: You made the state No. 1 in voter participation

November 22, 2016

“Take a bow, Minnesota voters.”

Star Tribune | Editorial: Congrats, Minnesotans: You made the state No. 1 in voter participation
By Editorial Board, 11/18/16

Take a bow, Minnesota voters. The North Star State once again led the nation in voter turnout on Nov. 8, returning to the civic participation pinnacle to which it has grown accustomed in the four decades since the state instituted Election Day registration.

That’s a heartening showing, particularly in light of this state’s slippage to sixth place among the 50 states in the 2014 midterm election. Better still for bragging rights: Minnesota’s 74.7 percent turnout this year bested the second-ranked state, New Hampshire, where turnout was 72.3 percent. And it’s much better than the national average, a ho-hum 58.1 percent.

More than parochial pride is behind our enthusiasm for these results. High voter turnout lends legitimacy to representative democracy. It allows elected officials to credibly claim a mandate for action, and mitigates the influence of small but noisy special interests. It also serves as a marker of Minnesotans’ civic engagement more generally. A state whose people vote in high numbers is also a state whose people care about their shared quality of life and take personal responsibility for its betterment.

Election Day registration, adopted in 1974, has immeasureably helped Minnesota keep participation high. A recent change made a big difference too, Secretary of State Steve Simon says. The 2013 Legislature’s move to no-excuses absentee voting — and Simon’s work promoting that option — contributed to a surge in the number of people who cast ballots before Election Day, either in person or by mail. More than 674,000 Minnesotans voted early, compared with 235,808 in 2012.


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Secretary Simon finishes second statewide, 87-county tour of Minnesota

November 15, 2016

Lincoln. Pipestone. Rock. Jackson. Cottonwood. The final five counties of 2016’s 87-county tour!

Thank you to all the election officials, small businesses, Safe at Home partners, high schools and colleges and universities for the opportunity to listen and continue our discussion—the best ideas come from the people of Minnesota!

See you on the road in 2017!

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Star Tribune: Minnesota's top elections official says expanded early voting a success

November 8, 2016

“In the days leading up to the election, Simon has been crisscrossing the state, visiting early voting centers and sitting down with elections officials to ask how things are running.”

Star Tribune: Minnesota's top elections official says expanded early voting a success
By Erin Golden, 11/8/16

At the lone early voting site in St. Paul on the day before Election Day, the line stretched around the building and parking spots were scarce — even for the state’s top election official.

On a visit to check in with Ramsey County elections workers, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon saw what looked to be the only parking spot in sight, began to pull in, but abruptly stopped and backed out. The spot had a sign — “VOTER PARKING ONLY” — and Simon didn’t want to take it away from a voter, even though he was running an hour behind on his jam-packed election eve schedule.

Tuesday will be Simon’s first general election as secretary of state, and it’s a big one for reasons far beyond the battle at the top of the ticket. It is the state’s first presidential election where people can vote early without an excuse, and they’ve turned out in force. By Monday morning, 568,196 Minnesotans had already voted, crushing previous records. It is also an election where voters, prompted in part by comments from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and hacking of Democratic Party computers, are more skeptical of the way elections are run. And for Simon, it is an opportunity to see election overhauls he’s championed since his days in the Legislature, such as expanded early voting, become a reality.

“To me, the election is the Super Bowl and the World Series, combined,” he said.

In the days leading up to the election, Simon has been crisscrossing the state, visiting early voting centers and sitting down with elections officials to ask how things are running.

He saved the state’s largest two cities for Monday, a day when his visits to polling places, elections offices and call centers were interspersed with interviews for the radio and TV news.

In Minneapolis, where 52,783 voters had already cast their ballots — amounting to more than 21 percent of registered voters — Simon sat down with City Clerk Casey Carl. He pulled out a pen and a three-ring binder and quizzed Carl about the city’s four early voting operations and about what the turnout might mean for Election Day voter registrations.

“One of the things I’m going to be looking for tomorrow is to see that same day, Election Day registration number,” he said, “and whether no-excuses absentee voting has an effect on that.”


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One week to go until Election Day!

November 1, 2016

Just one week until Election Day! has everything you need to know:

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Students throughout the state take part in 'Minnesota Students Vote 2016'

October 26, 2016

Students throughout the state are taking part in Minnesota Students Vote 2016, the first ever statewide mock election for high school students.

Over 280 high schools throughout the state have signed up to participate. Students will cast a mock ballot for U.S. President and get hands-on experience with the electoral process. Each school has the ability to decide how and where the voting takes place, whether it’s in one central location, over the lunch hour, in individual classrooms, or something entirely different. Statewide results for the Students Vote 2016 mock election are scheduled to be announced on November 1—one week before Election Day.

>> KSTP: Students Vote in First Statewide Mock Presidential Election [VIDEO]

>> Rochester Post-Bulletin: 'My voice will matter': Century, JM students take part in statewide mock election
By Taylor Nachtigal, 10/25/16

As students trickled into Century High School Tuesday morning, they were greeted by voting booths.

While the talk of selecting our next president has seemingly been relentless the last few months, the group of high school got to make their pick for our country's top office a few weeks early.

That's because high schools like Century and John Marshall are joining about 280 high schools throughout the state in the first statewide mock election, sponsored by the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. Two weeks before voters will head to the polls to cast their vote on Nov. 8, the mock election is an an attempt to familiarize students with the voting process and casting a ballot.

It's about "getting good habits started early," said Secretary of State Steve Simon in a news release.

"I think it's awesome because they're learning the actual process instead of just us talking about it, they actually get to see how it works," said Kathryn Gardner, a Century social studies teacher. [Read more]


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Star Tribune: Minnesota wants to reclaim top spot in voter turnout

October 10, 2016

“What I’ve done is issue a challenge for all of us to try to get back to No. 1. We can’t do it alone.”

Star Tribune: Minnesota wants to reclaim top spot in voter turnout
By Ricardo Lopez, 10/8/16

Secretary of State Steve Simon wants to make Minnesota No. 1 again — in voter turnout, that is.

Simon, the state’s top elections official, has been barnstorming the state in recent months, promoting his voting effort so that Minnesota can reclaim its top spot nationally for civic engagement. For nearly 10 elections in a row, Minnesota had bragging rights, ranking first among all states for its voter turnout rate. That was until 2014.

About half of eligible voters cast ballots that year, making Minnesota No. 6, falling behind states like Wisconsin, Maine and Oregon. In 2012 — during President Obama’s re-election — more than 75 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

“For nine elections in a row, we were No. 1 in the country, and we slipped a bit in 2014 … which is still very decent but not quite up to our usual Minnesota standards,” Simon said. “What I’ve done is issue a challenge for all of us to try to get back to No. 1. We can’t do it alone.”

Simon, a former state legislator who specialized in elections law, has even enlisted the help of some well-known professional athletes.

Twins players Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier and Kyle Gibson starred in a 15-second television ad currently running on the Fox Sports North network. In it, they urge Minnesotans to become registered voters and cast their ballots this fall. The baseball stars avoid any political endorsements as they aim to appeal to Minnesota’s civic-mindedness. Basketball players from the Timberwolves and Lynx also are partnering with Simon’s office to drive up voter turnout.

Simon has promoted several new, nonpartisan efforts to boost voter turnout this fall. The number of languages elections materials will be translated to has more than doubled, from five to 11. College campuses can compete against one another to register voters. About 180,000 high school students also will participate in the first statewide mock election in the presidential race.


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Rochester Post-Bulletin: Business snapshot offers partnership opportunities

October 4, 2016

“We encourage all new and existing businesses in Minnesota to complete the survey as they file each year with the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. It's a snapshot to provide new focus on the state's economic future."

Rochester Post-Bulletin | Our View: Business snapshot offers partnership opportunities
By Editorial Board

As Election Day looms, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is keeping an eye on the state's business opportunities, as well as his more visible role as overseer of elections.

His office announced the launch of the Minnesota Business Snapshot, a new initiative to provide critical economic and demographic data regarding the state's businesses.

"The Minnesota Business Snapshot is going to make it easier and more convenient for small-business owners to identify potential partners, for consumers to target their spending, and for the public and educational institutions to better understand the economic and demographic makeup of our state's business community," Simon said in a press release. "This is an important step to better serving Minnesotans."

A voluntary five-question survey will gather input from businesses throughout the state. Created with the help of business owners and researchers, the requests seek to identify staff sizes, diversity of ownership, types of business, revenues and the level of participation of the owners.

It's all good information for helping gauge business in Minnesota and establish new partnerships.


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To better serve Minnesotans, Secretary Simon launches 'Minnesota Business Snapshot'

September 28, 2016

Exciting news: Secretary Simon just announced the launch of the Minnesota Business Snapshot!

It's a new initiative designed to better serve Minnesotans by providing the public—from consumers to small business owners to educational institutions—with critical data and information on the economic and demographic make-up of Minnesota’s businesses. Click here to learn more. 

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Today is National Voter Registration Day. Make sure you're registered to vote!

September 27, 2016

Today is National Voter Registration Day! Visit and make sure you’re registered to vote; then encourage your friends and family to do the same. Together, we can get Minnesota back to number one in voter turnout in the country!

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Absentee voting in November election begins today!

September 23, 2016

Starting today, Minnesota voters can begin casting their ballots early for the November election. Any eligible voter can vote absentee—no excuse necessary! 

Minnesotans can request an absentee ballot to be mailed to them, or they can vote absentee in-person at their county or local elections office.

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Detroit Lakes Tribune: Big turnout in November? Simon strives to improve voting process

August 10, 2016

“My passion is to make it as easy as possible to vote.”

Detroit Lakes Tribune: Big turnout in November? Simon strives to improve voting process
By Nathan Bowe

Look for a big turnout for the Nov. 8 general election, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in Detroit Lakes Wednesday.

He doesn’t subscribe to the theory that unpopular presidential candidates with the two major parties will tamp down turnout among voters, who might be tempted to say “a pox on both their houses.”

For one thing, it’s an open-seat presidential election year, and those events tend to draw a big turnout.

“We also have two major party nominees who inspire strong feelings, so we’re probably going to see even more turnout than we would on a regular open-seat presidential year,” he said at a public forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Detroit Lakes Area and held at Emmanuel nursing home in Detroit Lakes.

“I’m predicting high turnout, not depressed turnout,” Simon said.

Minnesota is known for its civic-minded voters, he said. For nine elections in a row, Minnesota had the best voter turnout in the nation, but in the election of 2014, “we fell to No. 6,” he said. “My goal this year is to help get us back to No. 1 – but my office can’t do it on our own, we have to reach out to all kinds of organizations.”

Legislative action is also needed for the state to get back to No. 1.

“We have to make sure we pass and maintain laws that encourage voting and participation,” he said.

For example, Minnesota is one of only 11 states that allow same-day registration, allowing people to register and vote at the same time.

That needs to be preserved, and overly-strict voter identification laws must continue to be rejected, he said.

Minnesotans can register online and request an absentee ballot, among other things, at

On the site, you can learn how to vote early by absentee ballot, vote from the military, or abroad, and how to vote in a mail ballot precinct.

On the plus side, Minnesota now has no-excuses absentee voting, he said.


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Duluth News Tribune: Our View: Let the kids lead us in voting

August 4, 2016

“Familiarizing kids with voting and making voting a natural and expected activity can pay off with more citizens becoming involved in our democracy and more of us making decisions — which can result in better decisions.”

Duluth News Tribune: Our View: Let the kids lead us in voting
By Editorial Board

The goal is lofty. And important.

It’s to “help young people discover the importance of elections and the power of their votes in our democracy,” the office of Secretary of State Steve Simon declared on its webpage, referring to Minnesota’s inaugural Students Vote 2016, a statewide mock election for president this fall with high school students casting the ballots.

“High school students (will) get hands-on experience with the electoral process,” the secretary of state’s office said. “It gives young Minnesotans a sense of the responsibility and power they will soon hold.”

Give the secretary of state’s office credit for generating interest in the initiative. More than 250 Minnesota high schools and secondary schools are signed up to participate, including Denfeld, Marshall and East high schools in Duluth and at least 11 others from Northeastern Minnesota. Other schools can still sign up. There’s a link at

Under the initiative, students will vote on or before Tuesday, Oct. 25. The participating schools can each decide exactly when, where, and how to vote. Results are expected to be available by Nov. 1.

It’s common for mock elections to be held ahead of an Election Day, Simon’s office explained.

“This allows students the chance to weigh in before adults do and puts a spotlight on their engagement,” the office said. “After Election Day, everyone’s focus — parents, students and the broader community — shifts to the actual Election Day outcome, which can drown out the student experience.”


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