Good news first: when it comes to voter turnout, Minnesota kicks some serious butt. We’ve got a history of high turnout and didn’t disappoint in 2012, with 76.1% of voting eligible citizens turning out, besting runner up Wisconsin by nearly three percent. How’s it feel, Badgers, sting a little bit?
Now that bad news: we’ve still got a long way to go to make voting in Minnesota easily accessible to all our eligible citizens. So we should brush our shoulders off and then get to work.
One big missing ingredient is a true early voting system in Minnesota because, as it turns out, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November isn’t exactly the most convenient date for every Minnesotan. State’s that have developed vote by mail systems or well-advertised and convenient early vote in person options have seen their turnout improve by leaps and bounds. Sure Minnesotans have the option to vote absentee if they’re going to be away from their precinct on Election Day or are unable to get to the polls for other reasons, but that option should be extended to anyone who would just prefer a more convenient date leading up to the election. Let’s call it No Excuse Needed Absentee Voting.
A few big things drive high turnout in Minnesota, most notably our civic minded culture, easy access to registering at the polls and a history of close elections so we know from experience that every vote really counts. But resting on our laurels would be a mistake and the legislature should act this session so that by 2016 we top 80%.
Minnesotans should never have to wait outside for over an hour on a brisk Minnesota November day to be part of our democracy. No Minnesotan should miss a chance to vote because one Tuesday in November didn’t work out for them.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie get this and are pushing hard on election reform this year. There’s nothing more fundamental to our democracy than our right to vote and higher turnout means a more informed and engaged electorate focused on the issues that really matter.
We should be proud to be a national leader when it comes to voter turnout, now we should be a national roll model when it comes to a progressive and secure voting system that opens the doors of democracy to every eligible citizen. Oh, and a big thank you to everyone on my Facebook page for prodding me to write this (and giving me lots of important ideas) after a recent, less than modest, post.