Senator Sieben has the pleasure of serving as chair of the Senate Elections Subcommittee. It became clear after the long 2008 U.S. Senate recount that common-sense reforms were needed to update Minnesota's election laws. It was also apparent that for the reforms to be successful, they needed to be bipartisan.
It was with this goal in mind that Senator Sieben helped to assemble a group of bipartisan House and Senate members, staff from the Governor's office, staff from the Office of the Secretary of State, and election administrators to make recommendations to improve and streamline Minnesota elections. The group held nine informal meetings over a six month period last year. The group's work resulted in two bills, authored by Senator Sieben, which received strong bipartisan support and were signed into law by the Governor.
The first reform made improvements to the absentee ballot process. During the 2008 Senate recount, 12,000 of the 300,000 absentee ballots cast were rejected. The new law creates a more uniform way of processing these ballots by replacing the signature match process, which often caused confusion for election judges and voters.
Absentee ballot applications will now include one of the following forms of identification to replace the signature match: the applicant's driver's license or identification card number; or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
This law also creates "Ballot Boards," which are responsible for accepting or rejecting absentee ballots, replacing the current practice of having precinct judges examine absentee ballots. This process will help ensure that all ballots are administered in a uniform manner across the state.
The second piece of the collaborative proposal included reforms to make elections more efficient. This new law will ensure that Minnesota is using the most up to date government data to update the voter registration files and challenge voters if the data indicates that they are not eligible to vote.