‘Democracy For All Act’ passed by lawmakers, focuses on voter registration and security

A bill passed by lawmakers Thursday will make changes to the Minnesota's laws that govern voter registration, as well as, election security and transparency.

Focusing on efforts to make voting and elections more available and secure, the Democracy For All Act makes several changes and clarifications to existing state law.

"This is comprehensive legislation that strengths and protects Democracy. This package of common sense solutions rests on the premise that the state works best when our voices are at the core of Democracy," said Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL-Minneapolis), the bill’s sponsor. "Minnesota voters, not corporations or outside forces, are at the center of our Democracy. In the last few years we’ve seen Democracy tested in innumerable ways… This is about ensuring all political voters of all background have a right to vote."

Contentious debate across the aisle precluded the vote, with several members being warned about "invoking personalities of individuals" after remarks about leaders such as Hennepin County Attorney Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty while referencing the murder trial of Zaria McKeever.

Several members, including Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R- North Branch) received "last chances" from the House majority speaker before they reworded their language - laying the groundwork for lengthy debate prior to the vote.

Increased Access

In an effort to broaden registration access to younger voters, under the "strengthen the freedom to vote" portion of the bill it would permit an individual under the age of 18, but at least 16, to preregister to vote.

An amendment that would have prohibited a person convicted of a felony from preregistering to vote was not approved by the House, but provided contentious back-and-forth from members.

"We choose to not send people to prison in the state of Minnesota… And now, we’re going to register them to vote immediately, with no accountability," Rep. Neu Brindley said. "We're going to give everyone the right to vote, except the victims of these crimes."

"There should be no barriers in front of our young people that want to participate in Democracy," said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope).

Data on applicants who have preregistered to vote would be prohibited from becoming public until the voter is fully registered, or has a public voting history.
Providing further automated updates to voter registration, voters will now be able to join a permanent absentee voter list and request that the absentee ballot itself be sent automatically prior to each election, without the need for an additional application.

It also establishes a process that requires an eligible applicant for a new or renewed driver’s license or identification card to be registered to vote, unless the applicant opts out of the registration.

Automatic registration would also be required, unless an applicant opts-out, when a person initially applies or renews for MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance, or applies for benefits from other state agencies.

Protecting Elections

In addition to broadening access of voter registration, provisions within the legislation focuses on a voter’s ability to safely and successfully vote legally.

The legislation prohibits acts related to "intimidation, interference, and deceptive practices" up to 60 days prior to an election, with penalties ranging from a misdemeanor to fines.

It also establishes procedures and standards for providing voting instructions and sample ballots in languages other than English, while providing translation services to voters in a polling place on Election Day.

It requires the Secretary of State or a county auditor to contract with a translator certified by the American Translators Association to develop voting instructions and sample ballots in languages other than English, made available in polling places.

No later than 90 days before an election, the Secretary of State or county auditor, in consultation with the state demographer, must determine the percentage of residents in each census tract who are members of a language minority and who lack sufficient skills in English to vote without assistance.

Areas designated as "language minority districts" will be defined as those with three percent or more of the population that speak English "less than very well" according to the most recent census data, and will be required to have an interpreter.

Seeking transparency on potential candidate contributions and spending, beginning Jan. 1, 2024, a candidate will no longer be permitted to allow their principal campaign committee to accept a contribution from a corporation, including foreign-influenced corporations and investors.

Several additional amendments were proposed, but not approved, prior to the legislation passing the House Floor, including a provision that would not limit campaign contribution disclosure during any period during which the legislature is convened, or during the 14 days following its adjournment.

"Voters have the right to know who is spending money on these elections," Rep. Greenman said.