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Election judge bill receives Senate committee nod

ST. PAUL — Election judges would be able to find out each other’s political affiliations under a bill advancing in the Minnesota Senate.

Olmsted County Republican Party Chairman Bruce Kaskubar testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in support of a bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Senjem that would allow election judges to know each other's political party affiliations.

ST. PAUL — Election judges would be able to find out each other's political affiliations under a bill advancing in the Minnesota Senate.

Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is sponsoring a measure to allow election judges serving in the same precinct to find out whether their colleagues are Democrats, Republicans or not affiliated with a major party.

Speaking out in support of Senjem's bill during a hearing Tuesday was Republican Party of Olmsted County Chairman Bruce Kaskubar. He told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Senjem's bill would help ensure election officials are following state statutes. Under current law, only the head election judge knows each judge's political affiliation. When two election judges need to take a ballot outside of the polling place to an individual with a disability, they are supposed to each be from a different political party.

"This would allow the ability for other election judges at the polling place to verify that such activities are being properly executed," Kaskubar said.

Senjem amended his bill so that only fellow election judges could find out the political affiliations of those serving. His original bill was far more sweeping, and would have made public the political affiliations of all elections judges serving in the state. Senjem said there was a miscommunication when he drafted the initial bill and even he didn't support it. The initial proposal also faced opposition from local governments afraid it would deter people from signing up to be an election judge.


The senator's original bill would also have prohibited people from serving as election judges if they refused to provide their major party affiliations or a statement that they do not affiliate with a political party. The Rochester senator said he scrapped that language because it's not an idea he supports.

During Tuesday's hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz asked if there was a specific incident related to election judges' politics that became a problem.

"A friend of mine was an election judge and overheard another election judge say, 'Oh. I forgot. Today I'm a Republican.' That seemed a little curious," Kaskubar said.

The bill requires election judges to keep information about fellow election judges' political affiliations confidential. Rep. Duane Quam, R-Rochester, is carrying a companion bill in the Minnesota House.

No one testified against the bill during the hearing. A representative from the League of Minnesota Cities said the organization is neutral on the bill. The committee approved Senjem's bill on a voice vote, sending it on to the Senate Rules Committee.

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