During these unprecedented times, staying healthy is top of mind! Like many of you, I have changed my behavior to slow the spread of this novel virus. That includes wearing a mask in public and avoiding big groups of people. We may need to continue social distancing through the summer and fall. What does that mean for the general election in November?

The federal government recently set aside funds for states to transition to mail-in voting. However, senators leading the State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Finance Committee are blocking this expansion. If we do not authorize the Minnesota Secretary of State to use these funds before the legislative session ends on May 18, folks might have to choose between casting their ballot and protecting their health. If you remember the 2020 primaries in Wisconsin, voting conditions were grim.

We can strongly encourage the use of absentee ballots, yes. But what happens when you miss the deadline? What if you weren’t aware of this service in the first place? By extending the absentee deadline, we make voting more accessible to more Minnesotans. Some fear that mail-in voting will increase voter fraud. Fortunately, this is a myth! Election records show 2,968,281 Minnesotans went to the polls on Nov. 8, 2016. Court records reveal there were only 11 convictions for ineligible voting violations in Minnesota, many of whom were felons who didn’t know they weren’t allowed to vote.

Why aren’t we using this federal support to cover the cost of implementing a vote-by-mail election? The integrity of our democracy hinges on everyone getting their voice heard. Reducing access to the ballot is difficult to justify, and forcing citizens to physically visit a polling place is becoming archaic. Especially during a global pandemic, more options should be available to protect people's health. Please call your senator today and urge them to support these efforts!

Kelly Leibold, Pine Island