ST. PAUL — Just three days after its passage in the Minnesota House, a bill expanding federal election funds for coronavirus response has passed the Senate and is on the way to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.

Senators on Thursday, May 7 passed House File 3429 by a 66-1 vote. The bill will open up $17 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to boost election safety and practices in Minnesota, as the pandemic stretches into the foreseeable future.

The federal dollars will allow the Minnesota Secretary of State and local elections officials to invest in greater safety and sanitation practices at polling locations, open more locations in order to reduce crowding and cover the potentially greater vote-by-mail demand.

Democrats gave up expanded vote-by-mail provisions they had hoped for in the bill's early stages. Republicans argued that the move would be unnecessary, with Minnesota already offering early voting and no-excuse vote-by-mail.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who chairs the Senate's State Government and Elections Committee, said Thursday that now isn't the time to "make hasty changes that may be confusing or unclear to the general electorate."

"Instead, we are empowering people the choice to vote in the manner most desirable to them: by absentee mail, absentee in-person, or in a secure voting location away from vulnerable populations," she said.