The 2020 Minnesota Legislature enacted Chapter 77, and Governor Walz has now signed this chapter into law. This modifies certain elections statutes for the 2020 elections due to COVID-19. This legislation includes language allowing electronic candidate filings. Taking into account this legislation and other safety measures, below is guidance for candidates who wish to file with the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Major party candidates for state and federal offices have multiple ways they may file for office with the Secretary of State:
Minor party and independent candidates can use any of these filing methods above, but will need to submit their petition along with their affidavit of candidacy. Petition signatures can be gathered electronically. Below is guidance from this office about electronic signatures:
In Section 1, subdivision 4, Chapter 77 provides:
Subd. 4. Electronic candidate filings.
(a) Notwithstanding Minnesota Statutes, section 325L.18, paragraph (a), or any provision of the Minnesota Election Law to the contrary, a filing officer must accept electronic mail, facsimile, or other electronic submissions of any of the following:
(1) an affidavit of candidacy under Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.06, including any applicable filing fees;
(2) a nominating petition under Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.07 or 204B.08, including petition signatures collected electronically; and
(3) a request that a write-in candidate's votes be counted, consistent with Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.09, subdivision 3, or other applicable law.
(b) Except as provided in paragraph (a), this subdivision does not waive any other requirements provided in law or rule related to the format, content, or submission of an affidavit, petition, or request.
The purpose of this language was to allow for the collection of petition signatures in a manner that was as close to the existing process as possible while also avoiding face-to-face contact. The law allows for electronic submission of nominating petitions, and does not include the petition in lieu of filing fee. Filing officers must accept email, fax or other electronic submissions of petitions, including petition signatures gathered electronically. The section also references signatures electronically. It does not define that term, but chapter 325L generally defines an electronic signature quite broadly, as:
“(h) "Electronic signature" means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
This very broad definition means, for example, that all that is needed to qualify is the image of the signature in the petition document, nothing more. People could affix the signature image to an electronic document using a program such as Adobe Reader DC, which is available at no charge, and send back the petition document .pdf to the candidate for compilation and submission. Such a document could be sent to multiple person, accumulating signatures until that page is full, and then a new petition page could be started.
In paragraph (b) above, however, other requirements in existing Minnesota Election Law are not waived. This is an important provision, especially when read together with the rest of this subdivision. It means that the petition format, size, content and submission provisions must be followed, and are not to be changed or waived, even though you might be collecting signatures electronically.
Specifically, that means that the provisions of Minnesota Statutes, sections 204B.07; 204B.071; 204B.08; 204B.09; 204B.10, and the provisions of Minnesota Rules, chapter 8205 and particularly parts 8205.1010 to 8205.1050, still apply, other than the specific relief provided in Chapter 77, section 1, subdivision 4, even to signatures bearing electronic signatures.
The Office of the Secretary of State will not provide a platform for electronic signing of petitions, nor is the office going to pre-approve any particular methodology for placing valid electronic signatures on a nominating petition otherwise meeting the existing requirements. The Office will accept nominating petitions electronically and will evaluate those petitions, including signatures obtained electronically, in the same manner as paper petitions, except as specifically provided in the new legislation.