Jan 10, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota Democrats push election law changes

Illustration of a row of voting booths casting long shadows, the side of the booth reads "VOTE" with a checkmark as the V.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says he'll sign election-related legislation that lands on his desk β€” with or without Republican support.

Why it matters: Democrats have pledged to use their majorities at the Legislature to pass changes they say will expand voting access.

What he's saying: Walz said Monday that he thinks "bills to protect the integrity of the election" should β€” and will β€” get support from Republicans. But he's willing to enact such proposals even if they don't.

  • "Yes, I will sign bills that get to me with a majority vote to protect the right to vote," he said in response to a question from Axios.

Zoom in: Proposals introduced since the start of the new session include automatic voter registration, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and the option to join a permanent vote-by-mail list instead of requesting an absentee ballot for each election.

  • Legislation adding penalties for people who harass or threaten election workers is also in the works, Secretary of State Steve Simon and DFL state Rep. Emma Greenman said Monday.

Flashback: During the last DFL trifecta, then-Gov. Mark Dayton pledged to only sign election bills that had "broad bipartisan support."

  • Walz said in a 2019 interview that he would take the same approach. At the time, the Legislature was politically divided, so all bills required bipartisan support to pass.

The response: Legislative Republicans have criticized Democrats' elections agenda as "hyper-partisan wish lists."

  • Sen. Mark Koran, the GOP lead on the Elections Committee, said last week that ending a "long-standing practice of only changing election laws on a bipartisan basis... is a disservice to all voters."

The other side: Simon defended the proposals as "widely accepted, widely adopted policies, whose origins are nonpartisan," noting that some are in place in red states.

  • He said he would lobby Republicans for their buy-in, but declined to weigh in on whether Walz should use their support as a "test" for signing bills passed by both chambers.

What to watch: Democrats have also introduced a proposal to join more than 20 states that restore voting rights for people convicted of felony offenses who are on probation or parole.

  • The state Supreme Court heard a case challenging the current ban in 2021, but it has yet to release an opinion. Action by the Legislature could render the eventual ruling moot, supporters of the change say.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Twin Cities stories

Twin Citiespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more