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Kalin Working for Overseas Voter Rights

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 at 11:07 am

WASHINGTON, DC – State Representative Jeremy Kalin (DFL – Chisago
County) is meeting with state lawmakers from across the country, members
of Congress, veterans organizations, and leading election officials on
Capitol Hill this week to discuss the challenges facing military
servicemembers and other voters casting their ballots overseas. The
meeting is a coordinated effort by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Make
Voting Work” project. Pew hopes to create comprehensive solutions for
military and overseas voters by allowing key stakeholders from around
the country to share ideas for legislation and election reform.

As chief-author of Minnesota’s nation-leading Military and Overseas
Voting bill (SF1218/HF1259) that was passed and signed into law last
year, Rep. Kalin will offer an experienced voice to the conversation.
Kalin’s landmark bill was a coordinated effort with the Pentagon,
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, and State Senator Sharon
Erickson Ropes (DFL – Houston, Winona, and Fillmore counties).

“Because absentee ballots from overseas were required to be completed
by hand and returned by mail, eighty-one percent of military and
overseas voters didn’t have their ballots counted in 2006,” said
Rep. Kalin. “The reforms we made here in Minnesota have addressed the
problem squarely, and will ensure votes cast by Minnesota servicemembers
overseas will in fact be counted.”

Kalin’s law removes substantial barriers in the overseas voting
process. The bill would do this by: (1) making it easier and faster to
vote absentee; and (2) changing how absentee ballots are processed and
counted.

The bill makes absentee voting faster and easier by:

● Allowing absentee voters to request that a ballot, instructions,
and certificate of voter eligibility be
delivered to them electronically. Once delivered, the
ballot must be returned in a sealed envelope (not
electronically);
● Allowing elections officials to send absentee voters a second
ballot if their first ballot is spoiled, lost in
transit, or sent to the address on the ballot
application but the voter has since moved; and
● Allowing overseas absentee voters to use state write-in absentee
ballots to vote in federal, state, and
local elections.

The bill changes how absentee ballots are processed and counted by:
● Requiring that counties establish absentee ballot boards, made
up of trained election judges, to examine
absentee ballots and mark them “accepted” and
“rejected”;
● Making sure that if a voter voted absentee, but then votes in
person, the in-person ballot is counted and
the absentee ballot is not; and
● Requiring that if a military ID, passport, Minnesota driver’s
license, or state ID number is included on an
absentee ballot application, the information is
recorded in the statewide voter database.

Rep. Kalin looks forward to discussing Minnesota’s new law with other
lawmakers and election officials. “By meeting with lawmakers from
around the country, we can work on a state and federal level to ensure
every vote cast by Americans serving our country overseas are counted
fairly and accurately,” said Kalin. “These are America’s defenders
of democracy abroad. Any impediment to their participation in the
fundamental democratic right to vote is simply unacceptable.”

More information about the Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Make Voting
Work” initiative can be found online at
www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=44138. Additional
information about Minnesota’s new nation-leading military and overseas
election law can be found on the Minnesota House of Representatives
website at www.house.mn.

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