Have you ever found yourself alone and clueless in the voting booth, suddenly aware that there are whole columns of unknown candidates vying for positions you never knew existed? There’s an app for that!
My Ballot is now up and running for the November 4th election. The site provides the voter with a sample ballot complete with links to popular sites that provide information about each candidate. It covers any election in the state of Minnesota.
Find My Ballot at www.myballot.info – Enter your zip code and you’ll find the exact replica of the ballot you’ll face in the voting booth – with a digital crib sheet. You can’t vote online, but you can prepare yourself to make the best decisions when your turn comes.
Still, for some Minnesotans, getting to the polls this season will present a mighty challenge. The October 10 issue of Access Press, now on the newsstands, shines light on a harsh reality — voters with disabilities can’t depend on a lift to the polls this year. Since 2008 the Rides to the Polls Coalition, made up of several disability service providers and organized through Courage Kenny, has been funded by the Frey Foundation to provide rides to persons with disabilities. Those funds are no more, and no other provider has been able to continue the service.
The Secretary of State’s office encourages voters who need transportation to the polling place to contact family, friends or neighbors. It would seem appropriate to reverse the message to encourage mobile Minnesotans to consider family members, friends and neighbors who might need a ride.
Though Metro Transit in the Twin Cities must offer regular fixed-route transit service free of charge on Election Days the rule does not apply in non-urban areas. In some communities political parties provide rides. In any event, this patchwork approach falls far short of the need, particularly since people with disabilities have long depended on the Rides to the Polls Coalition.
One option is for voters with disabilities to vote absentee by mail or by going to an elections office prior to Election Day. This means people need to know the rules of absentee voting in advance. For the rules on absentee voting and everything else you ever wanted to know about Minnesota election law and were afraid to ask, check Ballotpedia where the Secretary of State posts all the rules: http://ballotpedia.org/Minnesota_elections,_2014#Voting_absentee
Voter registration, an issue that some had optimistically assumed was resolved two decades ago by the National Voter Registration Act has emerged – no, erupted – as a major issue, a mighty weapon wielded by forces that are only too well aware that the place to stifle the democratic process is the voting booth. Tinkering with the electoral process has taken various forms shaped to the vulnerability of the venue. In Minnesota, the pressure point was the Voter ID Amendment to the State Constitution. Originally portrayed as a benign detail the pernicious proposal was soundly trounced by the electorate in the last election.
An unintended consequence of that ill-fated rush to exclude has awakened Minnesotans to the importance of voters’ rights and inspired elected officials scrutinize the details with unaccustomed care.
The first legislative measures to take stage center are related proposals to allow early voting and to eliminate a requirement that people have a valid excuse to vote by absentee ballot. Thirty two states offer some form of early voting in which there is no requirement for a valid excuse. In some cases the votes are counted immediately; in others votes are not tabulated until election day and voters have a chance to change their vote. Many Minnesotans consider early voting a non-issue since they have assumed that Minnesota has had early voting in place all along.
The proposal now before the state Legislature would allow Minnesota voters to vote up to 15 days before an election. On-site registration would still be available following the same requirements as are currently in place for Election Day registration. While opponents fear easy early voting gives too much power to parties and voter fraud, proponents of absentee voting argue that it is more convenient for voters and that it would shorten the lines on Election Day. Governor Dayton has not weighed in except to be very clear about the fact that any decision will have to have bipartisan support.
With heightened awareness of the import of the electoral process per se, Minnesotans may be interested to learn more about what is happening in other states and at the national level. The Brennan Center for Justice which has long studied voting practices recently produced a major proposal to “modernize voter registration and bring America’s election system into the 21st Century.” The plan, known as the Voter Registration Modernization (VRM), is the centerpiece of the Voter Empowerment Act introduced last month by a raft of legislators and prominently mentioned in the President’s State of the Union Address.
Those who hatched their nefarious plans to skew the American electoral process by tinkering with the “details” may find that shining light on those details has illuminated the gaps in a system that is now enjoying unprecedented attention.
Minnesotans out-voted every state in the nation in the last election. We captured the national headlines with defeat of the Voter ID Amendment, once on its way to easy passage. We have reason to be proud of our record. We have a concomitant responsibility to follow what is happening in the State Legislature and in Congress. We know from experience what it takes to keep a collective eye on the electoral process — constant vigilance is the price of liberty.
Posted in Minnesota, Minnesota Legislature, Open Government, Politics in Minnesota
Tagged Absentee voting, Absentee voting-Minnesota, Brennan Center for Justice, Early Voting, Elections-Minnesota, Minnesota Constitution, Minnesota Legislature, Voter Empowerment Act, Voter Registration Modernization, Voter rights, Voter Rights-Minnesota, Voting Reform, Voting rights, Voting rights-Minnesota