On Tuesday, November 6, Minnesotans will head to the polls to vote in several local, state, and national elections. There are more races than usual for this midterm election. In addition to the biannual re-election campaigns for representatives serving in the state and federal House of Representatives, voters will also decide who they want to serve as Governor, Attorney General, Solicitor General, and several other state-wide offices. Both U.S. Senate seats are also up for election, an unusual situation owing to the resignation late last year of former Senator Al Franken (DFL) over sexual abuse allegations.
In preparation for the election, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is undertaking a tour of the state where he is visiting with county election officials. He is addressing concerns they may have, and giving valuable insight into what to expect for the upcoming electoral cycle. As part of this tour, Secretary Simon met with Janel Timm to learn about voting in Yellow Medicine.
Last election cycle, 74.8% of Minnesotans turned out to vote, making it first in the nation for voter turnout. This is also substantially above the national average for 2016 (60.2%) a point that Secretary Simon was particularly proud of. Although midterm elections tend to see lower turnout than presidential elections, Simon said that he expects turnout to remain relatively high owing to the unusual number of statewide races this year.
When asked if she had any concerns about the upcoming election, Timm responded by saying that she had only minor anxieties about the new election equipment purchased with state grant money. The new system, known as the DS-200, is an offline electronic voting machine. Timm said the new machines will make voting more efficient since voter information will be automatically stored on the system, reducing registration time for many voters.
Unlike other electronic machines, this system will still leave a permanent paper record of the vote that can be accessed by state officials long after the election ends. They are also totally disconnected from outside networks, making it extremely difficult to hack or manipulate by outside actors. Secretary Simon congratulated Timm on the purchases, and said that Yellow Medicine had been “really smart” with how it used state grant money.
Another topic of conversation during their nearly hour long meeting was potentially consolidating certain polling locations. Timm said that this was a conversation many rural communities were having in the face of changing demographic trends. Although there are not plans this year to change polling locations, Timm said she and the County were exploring alternative ways of making voting easier for residents, such as expanding mail only options for residents living in certain rural townships and expanding the number of election judges.
Something that is on nearly everyone’s mind is the threat of potential hacking from foreign governments. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Minnesota was one of nearly two dozen states targeted by the Russian government during the 2016 election, although they failed to actually access any voter data or election results. Secretary Simon said that he takes this threat very seriously, and has been in close cooperation with federal authorities to prepare for potential attacks during the 2018 cycle.
Secretary Simon thanked Timm for the meeting and again congratulated her and the county for their job organizing elections. “You guys have a great operation here,” he told her before leaving. The Minnesota primary election is scheduled for August 14, and the general election will be held on Tuesday, November 6. For more information about voting locations, how to register, and what expect at the voting booth, please go to the Secretary of State’s website at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/.