Faribault Daily News: Minnesota Secretary of State visits Faribault to talk upcoming election
By Daniel Borgertpoepping, 7/21/16
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited Faribault on Thursday to talk about the November elections and new voter outreach initiatives being rolled out this year.
Simon is in the midst of traveling again to all 87 counties around the state to gather feedback from local officials; something he said has helped inform him during his time in office and has given him new ideas to consider.
“The best ideas that I have ever gotten in 16 months on the job have been from all over Minnesota. One of the reasons I do this is to get those really good ideas. You have to get out of that ‘Capitol-St. Paul bubble,’” said Simon. “Getting thoughts and ideas and feedback and pushback, I thrive on that. Even if it’s constructive criticism, I’m okay with that. It’s very rewarding.”
Two of the topics discussed during his meeting with Rice County officials Thursday concerned future election equipment funding and law changes for voters that are new this year.
“Some of the items that he talked about with us regarding the future elections equipment funding. He explained that in 2002, Rice County received federal dollars from the Help America Vote Act that was triggered by Florida’s issue in 2000,” said Rice County Auditor Fran Windschitl. “Since then, equipment has aged; it’s becoming prone to more maintenance while new technology has emerged. So he encouraged Rice County officials to engage local officials and legislators to bring that funding need to the forefront in 2017.”
A change in absentee voting processes was also discussed, according to Windschitl, that will make it possible for absentee voters to deposit their ballot directly in the ballot box.
“For this next election, the most significant change is the ability to deposit their ballot in the ballot box if they’re electing to absentee vote at Rice County offices seven days prior to the election,” said Windschitl. “Instead of putting it in an envelope and that going to the absentee board, they can put their ballot in the ballot box.”
If a mistake was made on the ballot, it will be highlighted and the voter will have an opportunity to re-mark the ballot and make sure every vote counts, said Windschitl.
As part of Simon’s travel around the state, he is also promoting two new outreach initiatives; Students Vote 2016 and the Minnesota College Ballot Bowl 2016.
The Minnesota College Ballot Bowl is a voter registration competition where campuses across the state compete against each other over several weeks to register the most students to vote.
Students Vote 2016 is a statewide student mock election that allows high school students to get hands-on experience with the electoral process.
High schools can register by Aug. 1 to receive free printed materials; statewide results will be available on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
For its initial year, the program will focus exclusively on high schools.
“We didn’t know what to expect for the first year. As of now we’ll cover over 50 percent of students and we expect a spike in applications in August and September,” said Simon. “To me this is all about getting good habits started early. If kids start thinking of themselves as voters before they’re actually eligible voters, there’s a much greater chance that they’re going to cast that first ballot when they’re legally able to do that.”
According to a list released by Simon’s office on June 21, Bethlehem Academy and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf are both registered to participate in the high school initiative’s first year.