Some ballots dropping into ballot boxes at polling places across Minnesota could carry a new word: “Challenged.”
The House Government Operations Committee recessed in the midst of hearing the bill Tuesday morning, but was set to lay it over as amended, for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill after reconvening later in the day. The amendment was added via an 11-5, party-line, roll-call vote.
Instead of voters who register on Election Day certifying themselves as eligible under oath, the secretary of state’s office would supply local election officials with a list of people not eligible to vote. Election judges would then check voters who seek to register at polling places against that list. Voters found ineligible could cast ballots marked to indicate their “challenged” registration status. The decision of whether to count such ballots would rest with local canvassing board members when they meet after the election.
“The Office of the Secretary of State already receives lists and checks them against registered voters,” Pugh said. “It just makes common sense to me that the same list should be checked against someone registering to vote on Election Day before their vote counts.”
Secretary of State Steve Simon and several other DFLers said the bill would introduce provisional ballots to Minnesota’s election system, a characterization Pugh disputed. She said her bill is based on law in Wisconsin, where there is a separate provisional-ballot system.
“What we’d be doing in Minnesota ... is for the first time creating a sort of a ‘Maybe’ pile. There’s the ‘Yes, you can vote,’ the ‘No, you can’t vote,’ and the ‘Maybe you can vote,’” Simon said.
“I would lose my mind if I went to vote and was told my vote was not going to count that day,” said Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan).
Representing the Minnesota Association of County Officers, Scott County Auditor-Treasurer Cindy Geis said the proposed system could confuse election judges, and canvassing boards don’t have access to the kind of voter information to evaluate challenged voters’ ballots.
Simon also objected to expanding data on individual voters that would be public under the bill, such as whether the voter’s eligibility had ever been challenged because of a possible felony charge or information suggesting the voter might not be a citizen.
Pugh said challenged voters’ ballots could be marked with a voters’ unique registration number. “It could just be a little sticker. It could just go right on that ballot,” she said. "There’s only a number and the word ‘challenged.’ So there would be no one’s name on the ballot.”
Geis didn’t like that idea.
“I would never, ever, ever recommend putting a sticker on a ballot,” she said. “Because if it gets jammed in that tabulator, now we’re probably going to have to replace it.”
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