Why Early Voting is a Terrible Idea for Minnesota
Democrat lawmakers like Senator Katie Sieben who are pushing early voting are touting the idea as a more cost-effective replacement for the recently-enacted no-excuse absentee voting law. It’s not so simple, however.
Surely it would be more cost-effective to eliminate all security measures around our election system, but what kind of confidence would Minnesotans have in the outcome of our elections?
Just last year, Republican lawmakers struck a deal with Democrats to enact “no-excuse absentee voting” in exchange for keeping “early voting” off the table because of security concerns.
Early voting differs from absentee voting in significant ways. The most apparent difference is that with the early voting system, a voter’s ballot is inserted into a scanner/ballot box and tabulated immediately, while absentee ballots are retained in identifiable, sealed security envelopes until they are counted for the election. Absentee ballots are thus retrievable, in the event a voter learns new information and wishes to change his votes, or in case the voter should be found to be ineligible to vote in that election.
Most importantly, though is that Early voting will also involve no-ID-required Election Day registration in combination with vouching for 15 straight days, instead of the one day this is now permitted (see here for more on why that’s a bad idea).
During the Early voting process (which will take place at government offices and be administered by government employees whose livelihoods may depend on the results of elections), there won’t be the normal neighborhood citizen election judges or a requirement for party balance among the government employees acting as election judges. Further, for the political parties to provide their own election observers (called poll challengers) for 15 straight days is a task so daunting that in practical terms should be considered impossible.
Early voting discards citizen oversight and partisan observation of elections, creates a 15-fold increase in the potential for vouching fraud, and makes illegitimate ballots impossible to retrieve if a problem is detected.
All of those integrity measures would be thrown out to save a few dollars? According to Senator Sieben, About half of those using no-excuse absentee ballots in 2014 did so in person at county or municipal offices. She asserts that Early voting would save $4 per ballot (a dubious figure, but we’ll accept it for the sake of argument). With about 40,000 absentee voters (20,000 in-person), the cost “savings” with Early voting is a paltry $80,000 (an insignificant figure compared to the entire annual election expense in the millions of dollars – less than $1,000 per county).
Finally, early voting runs afoul of the Minnesota Constitution. Article VII, Section 1 refers only to one Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November). The constitution does not accommodate 15 straight Election Days.
Early voting isn’t the only change proposed to Minnesota election laws this year. Also on tap are proposals such as restricting public access to election data, allowing felons still serving out their sentence to vote, letting 16-year-olds register to vote (and holding their registration data private so if they do happen to vote while ineligible, that information would be hidden from the public).
A provision has advanced in the Transportation Funding Omnibus bill to allow illegal aliens to get Minnesota drivers licenses and at the same time a measure in the Senate Elections Omnibus bill would create automatic voter registration when applying for a state ID or drivers license (changing Minnesota’s “Motor-Voter” process from opt-in to opt-out).
Along with all of this, there’s also a measure to weaken the currently mandatory requirement of county attorneys to prosecute voter fraud when they have evidence of it.
Every single one of these proposals weakens the integrity and security of Minnesota’s election system and in combination they compound one another.