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Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State

News Review
Secretary of State Proposes Election Rules Changes to Address Same-Day Registration Options for Voters; Reduce Errors in Absentee Ballot Process
Posted Date: 11/21/2013

Contact: Nathan Bowie (651) 297-8919

SAINT PAUL, Minnesota — Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie today proposed a range of amendments to election rules, including new methods for eligible voters to prove identity and residence for same-day registration. The proposals also aim to improve absentee and mail ballot forms to reduce voter error and confusion, and seek to clarify or repeal outdated or burdensome rules.

Historically, the Secretary of State proposes changes to election rules prior to each general election year to provide adequate time to implement the rules, and develop educational materials that election judges and voters need in advance of the absentee ballot period (beginning June 27, 2014) for the primary election (August 12, 2014).

“We listened to and are acting on recommendations made by election officials and community groups to enhance and ease the voting experience,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. “These proposals will improve and update our elections process and help keep Minnesota the number-one state in the nation for voter participation.”

Filling Gaps to Improve Same-Day Registration
The proposed rules regarding proof of identity and residence for same-day registration process are based on gaps identified by election officials, citizen groups and others in consultation with the Office of Secretary of State:

  • Authorize common documents that voters often bring to the polling place to register.
  • Authorize new options for voters who rent but do not have utility bills that prove residence.
  • Address the need for new options due to 2013 election law changes that reduced the number of people for whom one registered voter could vouch.

“These rules will prevent confusion at the polling place and reduce the cases of election officials having to turn away potential eligible voters,” says Debby Erickson, deputy auditor and elections coordinator for Crow Wing County, and chair of the Elections Committee for the Minnesota Association of County Officers. “We look forward to getting these rules established soon to help start the process of educating voters.”

The past two secretaries of state have also had and used the authority to approve proof of residence documents for same-day registration.

Read the full text of the proposed rules and accompanying documents.

Newly Proposed Proof of Identity and Residence Options
The proposed proofs of identity and residence to be used in combination for same-day registration would add to the options already authorized for eligible voters to register on Election Day. Most voters register to vote at the polls by using a Minnesota driver’s license showing their address in the precinct. However, voters are also allowed to use a combination of a photo ID (such as a Minnesota driver’s license with an out-of-date address, U.S. Passport, or military, college or tribal ID) in combination with a current utility bill that shows their address. See the full list of approved proofs of residence at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=204.

Proposed Updates to Proof of Identity:

  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards from other states: These IDs accurately confirm identity, and federal law requires all states to maintain minimum uniform standards for licenses. These forms of ID are used by a majority of other same-day-registration states.
  • High school student photo IDs: Like the already-approved use of university IDs, many high schools issue IDs. The use of these IDs for students 18 and older is made more relevant as data show a growing trend of teenagers delaying driver’s licensure.

Proposed Updates to Proof of Residence:

  • Banking or credit card statements: Election officials report these items as the most common documents voters bring to the polling place, and they are often the only form of proof (other than vouching) that many students possess. Banking statements are currently used in Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. These documents include both the voter’s name and address, and are generally sent monthly like other previously approved bills used to verify residence.  
  • Rent or mortgage statements and residential lease/rental agreements: These items are inherently tied to residence, and election officials report that they are often brought to the polling place. Also, voters have cited confusion as to why these documents were not accepted previously. Idaho, Iowa, Maine and Wisconsin accept either rent statements or residential lease agreements. These items also make sense in cases where utilities are included in the rent. As a result, these voters lack utility bills as a form of residence proof. In addition, these documents would support voters who live with another tenant who has the utility bills under their name. 
  • The office is also proposing to solidify the current practice of accepting an electronic print-out copy of a bill, or the display of a bill on a portable electronic device (such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer).

Updates to Absentee and Mail Ballot Forms
In an effort to prevent errors commonly made in the absentee and mail ballot application process, the office proposes to clarify absentee and mail ballot instructions to reduce errors and confusion among voters and witnesses. Mistakes made on these forms lead to voters’ ballots being rejected.

About the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State
The Secretary of State is the chief election official in Minnesota and is responsible for the administration of the state’s election law. In this capacity, the office operates the Statewide Voter Registration System and prepares the official roster of voters for every election. The office also accepts filings by candidates, trains local election officials, and conducts voter education and outreach programs.

The Secretary of State is the keeper of the Great Seal of Minnesota and has the role of certifying the authenticity of a wide variety of official documents, including proclamations and executive orders.

A main function of the office is the review, approval and filing of articles of incorporation and amendments for all businesses and nonprofit organizations conducting business in Minnesota. The Secretary of State also processes all notary public applications and administers Safe at Home, an address confidentiality program designed to assist Minnesotans who fear for their safety.

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