Time to Modernize and Secure the Ballot

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ari Berman was the featured speaker at Minnesota Council on Foundation’s annual conference on March 15. A senior writer for Mother Jones and author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, Berman described the steps that have been taken since enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to turn back those reforms and suppress voter participation. He links the current effort to limit voter access to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Give Us the Ballot” appeal (The Nation).

That same day, the Minnesota Legislative Auditor's Office released a report on voting practices in Minnesota. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon in a statement agreed with the report and noted steps that are being taken to modernize the state's voter registration systems and create protections against cyber attacks.

MCF supports modernization of voting practices and the proposed reforms.  MCF issued the following media release in response to the report and recently-introduced legislation:

MCF Supports Voting Moderinization

It’s time for Minnesota to modernize its elections systems, and bills (SF3374 and HF3791) introduced in the legislature by Sen. Susan Kent and Rep. Laurie Halverson will do just that.

“Minnesota leads in voter participation, but we are lagging in many ways,” said Bob Tracy, policy direct at Minnesota Council on Foundations. “We need to all get behind efforts to bring our voting system into the 21st Century and continue to finish important work that didn’t get done during the last Century.”

Kent and Halverson’s Secure Access for Minnesota Voters Act is a comprehensive set of reforms that include, among other initiatives:

  • $1.4 million to upgrade and modernize the state’s voter registration database,
  • Security upgrades, 2-factor authentication and training as cyber security updates, and
  • Automatic and encrypted voter registration to make registration both easier for all and secure and accurate.

According to Minnesota Compass, Minnesota had the nation’s highest turnout of voting-eligible adults in 2016 at 74 percent. This reflects Minnesota’s civic engagement values and some significant reforms that were made in the 80s. However turnout rates for people of color in 2016 were 55 percent, well below the state average.  And, the threats of cyber attacks affecting Minnesota’s registration system were well publicized.

“We need to protect our voting system from cyber-attacks and to take advantage of new technologies to keep our voter registration rolls current and accurate, but we also need to carry-forward the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to make sure we remove barriers that keep people from voting,” said Tracy.