Secretary of state addresses voter law changes during Mankato stop

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Oct. 24—Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon stopped Tuesday in Mankato to talk about new and upcoming voting law changes.

The secretary touched on several points, including the restored right to vote for those with felony convictions who are not currently incarcerated.

Simon said his team is working to make sure people are aware of the law change, which went into effect this year.

"We're reaching out to partners across the state, because if there's anything we've learned in our office, it's that you need trusted voices in any community to be conveying this information," he said.

"Finding, identifying and partnering with people who already have relationships and community is so important."

Simon spoke at the Blue Earth County Library and also visited Mankato East High School, talking about the importance of pre-registering to vote.

Another law change means that teenagers who are ages 16 and 17 can pre-register to vote before they turn 18.

"We just want to create a buzz about this opportunity to get in line to register to vote because some of those 17-year-olds will be 18 by the next presidential election," he said.

Several other law changes also were passed this year and are either already in effect or will be next year.

Protections for election workers from threats and harassment were passed and are now in effect.

As of July 1, a new law expands the right to be absent from work to vote any time during the 46-day absentee voting period, in addition to on Election Day.

The deadline also has been extended for all absentee and mail ballots, which can now be returned by 8 p.m. Election Day.

Other laws going into effect in 2024 include automatic voter registration, where anyone eligible to vote and who applies for a new or renewed driver's license or ID card and includes proof of citizenship will be registered.

Blue Earth County Elections Administrator Michael Stalberger said they've issued just under 1,000 ballots for the Nov. 7 election so far, either through the mail or in person, and have had about 700 returned and accepted.

Stalberger said his office has seen success with early voters being able to feed their ballot into the tabulator as they do on Election Day.

"We're surprised by the number of folks at this point, and I think it's due to the fact that a lot of voters like that flexibility to vote when it's convenient for them," he said.

"The numbers for a special election and this early before a special election are higher than we would have expected them."

Simon also discussed the importance of getting out to vote in general.

"Well, huge stakes with the local (school) referendum here, and I'm not taking a position one side or the other, but obviously the stakes are huge either way, and the idea that so many local contests can be extremely close," he said.

"You don't want anyone to have regret about an election result the day after who didn't vote."