Measures needed to increase turnout, protect the vote

Mike KnaakEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Minnesotans voted in record numbers on Nov. 6, again leading the nation with the highest voter turnout – almost 64 percent. Stearns County’s turnout reached 70 percent compared with the national average turnout of about 50 percent.

That is the highest percentage of voter participation in Minnesota for a midterm election since 2002 and the raw turnout of 2,593,922 was the largest for a midterm election in Minnesota history.

Before the next general election, changes should be made to insure a high voter turnout, not only in Minnesota, but across the nation. These measures should make it as easy as possible for every eligible voter to cast a ballot.

Since 2014, Minnesotans could take advantage of “no-excuse” absentee voting and vote in person at county offices. Stearns County opened three sites for early voting by this method for six weeks before Election Day.

Across the state, about 540,000 people took advantage of this option.

For 2020, the Secretary of State should rename this option and call it what it is – early voting – instead of using the “no-excuse” absentee voting name. The media should continue to inform the public about the early voting option. Voting officials should find more ways to get the word out, including multiple notices in official communications such as property tax bills and vehicle license renewals.

If you voted early this year, make sure you spread the word with friends and family. With six weeks to vote in person or by mail, participation should be 100 percent.

Other steps should be taken as well not only to make it easy to vote, but to protect the voting system.

Because of a legislative deadlock between the state’s Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature, Minnesota wasn’t able to accept $6 million in federal money to update the state’s election infrastructure. If that money is available in 2019, the Legislature and governor should agree on a bill to get the money. Voting is not a red vs. blue issue.

In Washington, one of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s legislative priorities — protecting elections from cyberthreats — stalled amid opposition from Republican lawmakers and the White House.

Klobuchar should try again to move the legislation that would ensure the Department of Homeland Security quickly shares information about cybersecurity threats with local elections officials and provides money to states to enact cybersecurity measures and voting-machine upgrades.

Donald Trump and his supporters need to stop the voter fraud nonsense. Trump and his crew continue to claim, without any evidence, that there’s widespread voter fraud. Study after study has found no evidence. Even his own so-called voter fraud commission crashed. Trump’s ridiculous claim of ineligible voters donning disguises to vote multiple times sounds like an Onion headline instead of serious leadership. Trump needs to knock it off before his own re-election. Claiming any election he loses is rigged is the political equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

Democrats who will control the House of Representatives in January have outlined their first legislative efforts.

The key points of their proposal would establish automatic voter registration and reinvigorate the Voting Rights Act, crippled by a Supreme Court decision in 2013. It would take away redistricting power from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions.

Other provisions would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which declared political spending is First Amendment free speech, and they would mandate more disclosure of outside money and establish a public financing match for small contributions.

News about election security, foreign influence and attempts to suppress the vote have received lots of attention the past two years.

From local governments to Washington, there are ideas to address these issues that Republicans and Democrats should agree on and act.

A free, fair election for every voter is not a partisan issue.

Author: Mike Knaak

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