Editorial Roundup: New voting laws good for voters, democracy

Published 8:50 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

Why it matters: Making it easier to vote makes it easier for people to participate in our representative democracy.

The divisiveness of today’s politics makes it easy to become disgusted, disaffected and throw in the towel in a game where they feel cheated and left out. So making it more difficult to vote only adds to that frustration.

But Minnesota legislators and the governor have tried to address the cynicism and restore faith in democracy with a package of voting law changes that should remove the bureaucracy from the process of voting, extend voting rights to all who deserve it and encourage voting by making it easy to vote.

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We all love to do away with bureaucracy wherever we find it. The new laws address this by removing restrictions on the time for in-person voting, for doing away with a bureaucratic process to get an absentee ballot and for going through a sometimes laborious registration process.

The new laws encourage voting by automatically pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds to vote when they get or renew a driver’s license as long as they can show proof of citizenship. The new law allows voters to cast a ballot up to 18 days before an election in person, just as they would on Election Day. And for those voting absentee, they can be absent from work to vote on any day 46 days before the election, just as they are allowed to take off work on Election Day.

And instead of applying for an absentee ballot every year, the state will create a permanent absentee ballot list and people can sign up to automatically receive an absentee ballot. That’s a great convenience.

The new law encourages voting by requiring voting instructions be available on Election Day in the three most common non-English languages. There will be rules for translating sample ballots available on Election Day in areas where at least 3% of the people speak English “less than very well.”

These kind of rules catering to immigrants are not new. During the height of European and German immigration in the 1890s, voting instructions were printed in several languages including German, Finnish, Polish, Bohemian, French and Swedish.

Some of those most disaffected by the democratic system — those who have committed crimes as their solution to addressing their disaffection — will now be given a chance to influence their world legally. Studies show that those felons avoid re-incarceration if they feel part of a community by being able to vote.

And there are plenty of organizations who will be able to boost their efforts at encouraging voting with the new laws. COBAL, a group that works with the Latino population, plans to do a youth voter drive. The League of Women Voters will be getting the word out everywhere from booths at events to political debates to reach people about their new opportunities to participate in democracy.

Critics of the new voting laws will say they were not done in a bipartisan manner and don’t do anything to make elections more secure. But study after study has shown Minnesota has no problem with election security. There has been no widespread voter fraud. And if some elected leaders don’t see making voting easier a bipartisan issue, they have a right to their perspective but that’s not one that serves voters.

Voting in Minnesota will be easier than ever before. We encourage all to get registered, study the candidates and exercise their rights to democracy in a bureaucratic-free way.

— Mankato Free Press, July 16

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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