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S.F. No. 414 - Early Voting Authorization (the Committee Engrossment)
 
Author: Senator Katie Sieben
 
Prepared By: Alexis C. Stangl, Senate Counsel (651/296-4397)
 
Date: February 20, 2015



 

S.F. 414 authorizes the use of early voting for all federal, state, and county elections. Additionally, cities, towns, and school districts may use early voting if they meet specified criteria. Early voting would be offered from 15 days prior to the election through 5 p.m. on the third day before the election. Early voting locations would be at the county auditor’s office, the municipal clerk’s office, and other designated locations. Early voting locations are required to have access to the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) at the early voting location to allow election judges to determine if individuals have already voted.

Section 1 requires the SVRS to be able to provide necessary reports for early voting.

Section 2 specifies that election law applies to early voting unless otherwise provided in chapter 203, which applies to absentee voting and early voting.

Section 3 provides a definition of early voting.

Section 4 includes early voting in the existing list of absentee voting violations.

Section 5 adds cross references to the new early voting sections.

Section 6 prohibits voters from voting by in-person absentee ballot during the early voting period.

Section 7 requires the county auditor’s office and municipal clerk’s office to be open to accept absentee ballot applications and casting of absentee ballots from 8 a.m. to noon on the day before a federal, state, or county election, unless that day falls on a Sunday. For local elections not held in conjunction with a federal, state, or county election, the current requirements remain in place.

Section 8 provides that the same ballot board has responsibility for absentee voting and early voting. The election judges on the board must be trained on absentee ballots, administration of early voting, and the use of the SVRS.

Section 9 specifies that the ballot board must administer early voting as provided in section 18. The ballot board must make a record of voters who cast early ballots and cast those ballots as provided in sections 10 and 12.

Section 10 requires the county auditor or municipal clerk to immediately record in the SVRS that a voter has cast an early ballot. A voter whose record shows that the voter has cast an early ballot must not be allowed to vote again in that election. At the close of business on the day before the start of early voting, a voter whose record indicates that an absentee ballot has been accepted must not be allowed to vote again at the election. County elections are added to the list of elections where this information must be entered into the SVRS. By the start of election day, the roster must be marked to indicate voters who have voted early.

Section 11 allows accepted absentee ballots to be opened and deposited in the ballot box after the close of business on the 16th day before the election.

Section 12 specifies that early voting ballots are stored and counted in the same manner as absentee ballots.

Section 13 allows an eligible voter to vote early in a primary, special, and general election for a federal, state, or county office. Cities, towns, and school districts may use early voting in their elections that are not held in conjunction with a federal, state, or county election if the specified requirements are met. The governing body must adopt a resolution authorizing early voting at least 74 days before the election. A charter city may instead include the provision in its charter. A city, town, or school district may only use early voting of the clerk has the technical capacity to access the SVRS in the manner prescribed by the secretary of state.

Section 14 states that early voting must be available in elections described in Section 13 from 15 days before the election through 5 p.m. on the third day before the election. Voters in line at 5 p.m. on the last day of early voting must be allowed to vote in the same manner as voters in line when the polls close on election day.  For a primary, polling places are not required to be open on the first Saturday of early voting.

Section 15 requires early voting locations to be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on each weekday during the early voting period. Additionally, each location must be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on at least one weekday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the two Saturdays before the election.

Section 16 requires early voting to be available at: (1) the county auditor’s office; (2) the municipal clerk’s office (if the municipality is administering absentee voting); and (3) at any other location designated by the county auditor or city clerk at least 90 days before the election.

Section 17 requires the county auditor to prepare a notice to voters of the days, times, and locations for early voting. At least two weeks before the election, the notice must be posted on the Web sites of the county, cities, and towns where an early voting location is designated. If there is no Web site, the notice must be published in the official newspaper.

Section 18 requires a member of the ballot board to use the SVRS to determine if an individual has cast a ballot in the election before the individual is allowed to sign the polling place roster or voter signature certificate. If the individual has already cast a ballot, the individual must not be allowed to vote. If the individual has not already cast a ballot, must sign the polling place roster or voter signature certificate and be given a ballot. As soon as possible after giving the ballot to the voter, a member of the ballot board must enter into the SVRS that the voter has cast a ballot in the election. Early ballots must be prepared and distributed in the same manner as ballots for election day. Voters must deposit their ballots in a precinct count voting system or sealed ballot box. A voter must not leave the polling place with a ballot. Early ballots must be processed and counted as provided in Section 12.

Section 19 requires the county auditor to prepare and make available early voting election materials at least one day before the beginning of early voting.

Section 20 requires the polling place roster or voter signature certificate for early voters to state, in bold type, that the voter understands that they cannot vote again in the election.  This is in addition to the existing required statement that the voter understands that providing false information is a felony. That statement is also required to be printed in bold type.

Section 21 specifies that a computer program for electronic voting systems, and a duplicate, must be completed and delivered to the election jurisdiction at least 27 days before the election.

Section 22 requires voting system tests to occur between the 22nd day and the 16th day before the election (instead of the current 14 days).  This ensures testing is completed before early voting starts.

Section 23 makes an appropriation in fiscal year 2016 from the general fund to the secretary of state to implement early voting. 

Section 24 provides that the act is effective when the secretary of state makes the required certification or August 1, 2015, whichever is later.  The secretary of state must certify that: (1) the SVRS has been tested, properly allows for tracking of information required for early voting, and can handle the expected volume of use; and (2) precinct count voting equipment that can tabulate at least 30 different ballot styles has been certified for use in Minnesota.

 

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