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Our View: Senate DFLers shouldn't push for early voting

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As the Minnesota House — and indeed the entire Capitol — was consumed with debate and discussion of same-sex marriage, on Wednesday, the House quietly approved a series of new election procedures. The vote was 74-60, with two Republicans joining the DFL majority.

Those two Republicans votes were crucial because on May 26, 2011, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a GOP-sponsored bill that would have required voters to show a valid photo ID before voting. In his veto message, he delivered the following ultimatum: "I will not sign an election bill that comes to me without broad bipartisan support."

Today, of course, the DFL controls the Legislature, but Dayton hasn't budged from his position on changes to the state's election laws. If the DFL can't muster up some Republican votes, he'll use his veto pen.

More than a few DFLers are frustrated by Dayton's ultimatum, but we're fine with it. He's applying it both ways, and we agree that changes to the state's election system should have at least some degree of bipartisan backing.

What changes does the DFL want to make?

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Included in the bill passed Wednesday are new rules regarding when and under what circumstances a political candidate's name can be removed from a ballot — rules that are of great interest in Rochester after the death of City Council President Dennis Hanson and the still-ongoing process of trying to bring the council back to its full seven members.

But of greater interest statewide is a proposal to allow no-excuse absentee voting, which would finally and officially nix a system in which people routinely told lies in order to obtain an absentee ballot (and thus avoid waiting in line on Election Day).

We've long advocated for this change, and there are indications that this idea has much more bipartisan support in the House than the vote totals would indicate.

The problem is the election bill in the Senate goes further, seeking not just no-excuse absentee voting, but outright early voting — which, according to a poll earlier this spring, is opposed by 55 percent of Republicans in Minnesota. If the DFL-controlled Senate pushes for early voting, and if it were included in the elections bill that emerges from the House-Senate conference committee, it's entirely possible that not a single Republican in either chamber would vote for the final bill.

That would guarantee another veto.

We urge the Senate DFLers not to play chicken with Gov. Dayton on this issue because he isn't going to blink. Minnesotans want no-excuse absentee voting, and once it is allowed, there would be no need for early voting.

The House elections bill is a good one. Go with it.

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