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Despite New Era, Advocates Warn of Efforts to Restrict Voting Access

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Voter advocacy groups say Minnesota has a good history of operating fair elections with strong checks and balances. But they note that hasn't stopped efforts by some legislators to push measures calling for tighter restrictions. (Adobe Stock)
Voter advocacy groups say Minnesota has a good history of operating fair elections with strong checks and balances. But they note that hasn't stopped efforts by some legislators to push measures calling for tighter restrictions. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN - Producer, Contact
January 21, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Joe Biden presidency is now under way, following chaotic attempts to overturn his victory.

A Minnesota group warns despite the transition, state-level efforts continue to undermine voter access amid discredited claims.

Polls indicate many Republicans still don't acknowledge Biden's win after former President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed the election was stolen.

Michelle Witte, executive director of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Minnesota, said it's troubling some GOP lawmakers still are floating such rhetoric.

She added it's concerning after many voters were able to cast their ballots by mail during a pandemic, bills are getting introduced which she protested would restrict access.

"Voters in Minnesota turned down a constitutional amendment to have voter ID in 2012," Witty explained. "They turned that down. So on what basis do we have to move forward to undo a problem we don't have?"

Witte referred to a bill introduced this session by Senate Republicans to make another attempt at a Voter ID law for Minnesota. She also cited election audits over the years, and how they haven't uncovered widespread fraud.

Republicans calling for changes said they're responding to concerns from constituents. They were also at odds over last year's temporary lifting of a witness signature requirement for absentee ballots.

Republicans aren't likely to succeed in seeing their bills become final, with Democrats still in control of the Minnesota House.

But Witte stated she feels there are lawmakers who are now latching onto Trump's rhetoric and using it as a reason to suppress votes. She contended expanding ballot access is not a partisan issue.

"Increasing access to voting benefits all parties, you know, both parties," Witte urged. "In this case, the presidential race and other upper-level races turned out more people than they turned out before."

Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature said they want to build on the state's reputation for turnout by enhancing the absentee option, and reinstate voting rights for convicted felons after their release.

As for efforts to enact more restrictions, similar efforts are unfolding in other states including Pennsylvania and Georgia, states which played key roles in the outcome of the presidential race.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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