Vadnais Heights elects to support early voting legislation

Vadnais Heights passed a resolution in support of proposed law changes at the Legislature that would allow for early voting in Minnesota elections at its March 4 City Council meeting.

The resolution, encouraged by the League of Minnesota Cities and Ramsey County, puts the city in favor of legislation that would allow for in-person early voting 15 days prior to elections.

The resolution was pulled from the council consent agenda, where a group of items are voted on en masse, for further discussion because of concerns raised by council member Craig Johnson.

Johnson said the city had recently relinquished its election-running responsibilities to Ramsey County, and that he was weary of the costs associated with running early voting out of Vadnais Heights City Hall.

Per the proposed legislation, early voting would take place at most city halls in the county, and other places designated by Ramsey County Elections. Johnson floated the idea of letting the county handle early voting at a non-City Hall location.

Assistant City Administrator Kathy Keefe countered by saying the city already administers absentee voting from City Hall and that, compared to what the city does for absentee voters, the early voting system is simple.

As laid out by Ramsey County Elections, early voters would be treated the same as day-of voters, eschewing the application process required for absentee votes. Early voters would fill out a ballot and place it in a ballot machine that same day.

Early votes would be counted once the polls are closed on Election Day, as if they were cast during normal polling times.

Keefe said the absentee voting process can take as long as 10 minutes, whereas the early voting process has been estimated to take three minutes and 45 seconds; at least one person in the council chamber snickered at that exact estimation. Keefe added that each early vote is estimated to cost half as much as an absentee vote.

"It will save time and money doing it this way," she said. The council, save Johnson, supported the resolution, and it passed 4-1.

"The alternative of not doing it [at City Hall] is people would have less convenience to vote," council member Bob Fletcher said. "If there is one service we should provide it is making sure they can vote so we have the right representatives."

The proposed early voting legislation would apply to all county, state and federal elections, as well as odd-year municipal and school board elections with consent of ruling bodies. Early voting would end at 5 p.m. on the Saturday before the election.

Ann Lindstrom, a lobbyist for League of Minnesota Cities, said two other cities, Hopkins and Shorewood, had passed similar resolutions in support of early voting, with the likelihood of more cities to come.

Lindstrom said the early voting bill was passed out of the Senate Subcommitte on Elections and needs to be taken up by the Rules & Administration Committee. She added it has yet to be read in the House.

—Mike Munzenrider


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