My Point of View: Minnesota has a reputation for honest and open elections
My Point of View by Joseph and Robin Brown
We voted Saturday. It took a total of about two minutes to complete the process: fill out our ballots, slip them into the ballot envelopes, place the ballot envelopes into our signature envelopes, sign and enclose everything in our pre-paid, pre-addressed official election envelopes. Seriously, about two minutes. Everything we needed to vote was included in our official ballot material we received from the Freeborn County auditor-treasurer. Everything from the easy-to-follow directions to the postage-paid envelope used to mail our ballots to the Freeborn County courthouse. We voted Saturday. It was easy, fast and secure. And isn’t that the voting experience we expect?
What more should we expect from our election process? Maybe we should expect that everyone who is eligible to vote — votes. Eligibility requirements are clearly listed on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. According to Minnesota law, you must be:
• A U.S. citizen
• At least 18 years old on Election Day
• A resident of Minnesota for 20 days
• Finished with all parts of any felony sentence
But being eligible to vote is not a guarantee that one will vote. People can face a variety of obstacles along the way. Some obstacles are the unintended consequences of seemingly well-intended policies, while other obstacles have been put in place with the explicit purpose to suppress the vote. In both cases, eligible voters are prevented from participating in the election process — voting.
Here, in the state of “above average,” we are proud of our stellar voter turnout. During the presidential election of 2016, 74.8% of eligible voters cast ballots, and during the election of 2018, 64.2% of eligible voters voted according to Ballotpedia.org.
Our Secretary of State has made it a point to ensure that Minnesotans have the information they need to participate fully in the election process, whether they are eligible voters, candidates or people wishing to be more involved in the political process. To get more information, you really must check out all that the secretary of state website has to offer at sos.state.mn.us.
With early vote-by-mail ballots getting so much attention, we find it important to point out how important it is to provide options for eligible voters that reflect the times in which we live, whether or not there is a virus that may be keeping voters from the polls. In Minnesota, we can vote early by mail, early in person, in-person absentee and more. Again, check out the Secretary of State website for detailed information for your individual situation.
If our intention as Minnesotans is that all who are eligible to vote, do vote, then we need to make sure that voting is easy, fast and secure — and we believe early mail-in voting is. It’s disappointing that someone would attempt to shake the trust we have in our election process here in Minnesota — especially when research shows that lost trust equals lower voter participation.
At this point, we need to insert the fact that for just 55 cents, you can mail a letter on Monday and it will safely reach it’s destination by Wednesday. The USPS works and is backed up by federal law. Mail tampering is a federal offense, carries up to $250,000 in fines and five years in prison. It is insulting that someone would use the USPS to discourage someone from voting.
We have voted in every election since 1972 and 1980 respectively: national, state, local, school district, city and county. Most of the time we have voted in person. The local election judges know us since we have voted at the same location at the Moscow Township Hall for the past 20 years. We enter the township hall, sign the voter book, obtain our ballots, walk over to private booths, fill in the bubbles and then place our completed ballots in the electronic machine. We have confidence that our ballots were counted and that there are paper backups.
We trust that our mail-in ballots will be counted as well. We can track them through the Secretary of State web site or call the Freeborn County auditor-treasurer for confirmation.
Minnesota has a great reputation for open and honest elections. We have policies and protections that make voting easy, fast and secure. So whether you choose to mail in your vote or vote in person, do what’s best for you and vote!
Joseph E. Brown Sr. is the superintendent of Fairmont Area Schools. He previously served in the Iowa state Senate from 1979-1986.
Robin Brown is a teacher and is a former District 27A representative.