Our fast-changing world is a far different place than it was even a couple of weeks ago. And with health challenges only expected to ramp up in the coming weeks and months, our new reality is frighteningly unclear.
One thing remains certain, however: “The 2020 statewide elections must go on as scheduled,” as Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said this week in a statement to media outlets, including to the News Tribune Opinion page.
Moreover, Simon said, “We need to be prepared for a different kind of election than we are used to. Whatever happens, I'm determined that Minnesotans should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”
Minnesotans can be open to innovative and creative ways to pull off this year’s campaigning and balloting, ensuring that all eligible voters are able to participate. No idea being brainstormed right now is set in stone — and shouldn’t be without approval from Minnesota’s politically split Legislature. The two sides of the aisle can come together to ensure a fair and as-inclusive-as-possible election. Now is the time to consider and debate unintended consequences of doing things differently, assuming we’ll need to.
Under consideration by the secretary of state’s office, Simon said, is mailing ballots to registered voters to fill out at home and then mail back. Simon and staff also are considering expanding absentee voting, reducing the number of polling places, limiting polling places to centralized locations, and moving polling places away from pandemic-vulnerable spots like senior care facilities.
“I'm actively reaching out to partners across Minnesota to explore the options before us. We're all going to have to work together to maximize the safety and security of this year's statewide elections,” Simon said. “Rest assured, no matter what Congress decides to do about providing help to states as they confront the cost of increased voting by mail, we in Minnesota are working on an election plan now. Whatever option we use, we’ll do the planning thoughtfully, carefully, and together. Pandemic or not, my mission has not changed: I am here to make voting as easy as possible for all eligible Minnesotans.”
DFLer Simon can take extra care to ensure that differing viewpoints are considered in finalizing the best plan possible and that Republicans are part of his “and together.” Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan is already expressing concern that “we do not jump the gun to make changes that are at this point unnecessary.”
“Our nation is dealing with an unprecedented situation which has forced many changes in our daily lives, but it is important we react in a measured and thoughtful way taking things day by day,” Carnahan said in a statement. “The Republican Party of Minnesota fully supports working to ensure that no Minnesota voters are disenfranchised in any way by coronavirus implications or any other reason. However, it is concerning to see Secretary of State Steve Simon and Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin rushing to change laws surrounding voting in elections that are months and months away.”
Those months will pass quickly, and the bottom line remains: The election must go on. If it means doing it differently, it’s on Simon, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, and Republicans and DFLers alike to work together to ensure fairness, equal opportunity to participate, and — perhaps most importantly of all — a safe vote.