Today Senate Republicans approved the use of more than $17 million Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and CARES Act funds to secure and protect our elections. This money comes from the federal budget. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“As we navigate this pandemic, we continuously encounter unexpected hurdles,” said Senator Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo). “With elections approaching, we worked to improve the voting process so Minnesotans can put their trust in a secure procedure that ensures precautions are taken to protect voters from COVID-19. Every Minnesotan will be able to safely exercise their right to vote.”
“This bill protects our elections in August and in November so they are safe and secure in every part of the state,” said Senate State Government and Elections Committee Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer (R- Big Lake). “It is incredibly important that in a time of crisis, we don’t 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.”
Roughly half of the funds can be used for any COVID-19 related needs such as temporary screens, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, protective equipment, and social distancing compliance, including extra staff to manage an expected increase of mail absentee ballots. The other half of funding can be used to more general election needs, including updating the Statewide Voter Registration System, election accessibility, and improved election security.
In addition to the funding, the bill allows for the one-time relocation of polling places by July 1, 2020, to protect vulnerable populations. Locations usually needed to be finalized before the end of the year previous to an election. The bill also allows the electronic filing of an affidavit of candidacy and electronic signatures for nominations petitions.