Democratic legislators in Minnesota have introduced a bill this month that would enact a major overhaul of the state’s election laws covering voting access and campaign finance after the party won back the state Senate majority from Republicans in 2022 and in doing so regained full control over state government for the first time in nearly a decade. Reforming the state’s election process is a top priority for Democratic lawmakers, Gov. Tim Walz and Secretary of State Steve Simon, meaning this or similar legislation is likely to pass.
The new bill, tiled the "Democracy for the People Act," contains a number of provisions:
- Establish automatic voter registration at several state agencies such as those covering driver’s licenses, the state’s low-income health care program, and more.
- Allow 16 and 17 year olds to preregister to vote so that they will automatically be added to the rolls once they turn 18.
- Abolish felony disenfranchisement for people on parole or probation.
- Impose stronger penalties on voter intimidation.
- Allow voters to opt into permanently receiving an absentee ballot in every future election.
- Expand multilingual ballots and election materials.
- Create a public campaign finance system by giving voters two $25 "Democracy Dollar" vouchers that they can donate to a candidate or party.
- Require "dark money" independent campaign groups to disclose the identities of their donors.
Minnesota for many years has ranked as one of the best states for voting access, often with the highest turnout rate nationwide, thanks in large part to policies such as same-day voter registration. Other states have made gains recently, notably where Democrats have adopted innovations such as automatic voter registration intended to make it even easier to vote. Preliminary data indicates that Minnesota saw the third-highest turnout rate in 2022 at 61% of eligible voters, just behind Maine and Oregon.
If Minnesota passes automatic voter registration, half of Americans will live in states with some form of AVR, although some of those AVR systems are more far-reaching than others. Additionally, a majority of Americans now reside in states that do not disenfranchise anyone with a felony conviction who is no longer in prison (or ever, in some cases) thanks to the adoption of reforms in several states over the past decade. Minnesota enacting this reform would bring it into line with the rest of the country.