New law allows blank ballots to be sent overseas to absentee voters via e-mail while still requiring the voter to print out the ballot and return it by U.S. mail.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie last week praised the enactment of S.F. 1218, a bill related to Military and Overseas Voting, which makes voting easier for Minnesotans overseas by cutting in half the transit time of mailed absentee ballots. The new law allows blank ballots to be sent overseas to absentee voters via e-mail while still requiring the voter to print out the ballot and return it by U.S. mail. This fulfills the requirement that all votes cast in Minnesota are done on paper ballots while making the process faster and more convenient to voters.
"This legislation provides a significant boost to deployed service members," said Colonel Eric Ahlness, Minnesota National Guard. "It will ensure their personal information is protected and provide the structure to reduce the delivery time of ballots to service members. This change improves delivery time by 50 percent which helps make their vote count."
In the 2006 election, fewer than 3,000 overseas voters successfully cast ballots. One of the key problems overseas voters face is that Minnesota's primary is held in September, and general election ballots cannot be printed until primary results are known. Ballots are often received overseas too late to be returned stateside before the election.
"There are more than 70,000 Minnesotans serving our nation overseas and they deserve to participate in their democracy at home," Ritchie said. "This legislation removes barriers to voting overseas and moves Minnesota closer to ensuring that all citizens who are eligible to vote can cast their ballots.
"This was a great cooperative effort of all involved -- governor, Legislature, support groups, and the Office of the Secretary of State. This benefits all of Minnesota's military and overseas absentee voters," said Polli Brunelli, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Defense.
The electronic transmission of blank ballots is currently allowed in thirty-seven states and territories.