Steve Simon aims to restore felon voting rights, bring automatic voter registration to Minnesota

The Secretary of State has revealed the plans for his next tenure.
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Fresh off his re-election as Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon has revealed he hopes to implement some major changes to Minnesota's voting system over the next few years.

The proposals announced on Thursday are aimed at increasing voter turnout in Minnesota, which is consistently among the states with the highest turnout, including 64.25 percent turnout in November's Mid-Terms.

Chief among the changes aimed at boosting turnout is restoring the voting rights of the 60,000 Minnesotans who have previously been convicted of a felony.

Minnesota would become the 17th state to restore voting rights to felons, which Simon says would ensure those "working to rebuild their lives ... have a voice in their community."

"We have a law that says a person is safe enough to live in our community, but still too dangerous to be a voter," he said. "That's ridiculous."

Simon also wants to bring automatic voter registration, which would automatically register eligible voters who interact with government agencies – such as the DMV – unless they choose to opt out.

The Secretary of State argues this would save money, increase registration rates and improve accuracy of voter rolls.

He also wants to make a change to the Presidential Primary law introduced in 2016 that will see Minnesotans make their presidential nominee selection via a primary rather than a caucus.

Currently, the law requires that all voters disclose to election officials the party ballot they choose, essentially making their party affiliation a matter of public record.

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Simon says there's "no good reason" for this public disclosure, arguing the GOP-led legislature created a "back-door system of party registration" when they passed the law in 2016.

Simon faces an obstacle in getting his proposals through the legislature, as while improving ballot access is popular among Democrats, it is less so among Republicans.

While the DFL now has a majority in the House, the GOP still has a slender, 1-vote majority in the Senate, and already some Republicans have come out against his plan.

The Star Tribune reports that Rep. Jim Nash (R–Waconia), who is the House GOP lead on elections, says the changes would increase the potential for voting fraud.

Simon also intends to try once again to allow Minnesota to access $6.6 million in government funding to tackle election security, which was not passed by the legislature last year.

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