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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

It’s time to discuss voting changes

Mower County officials and the state of Minnesota are both right for taking steps to make voting easier for the public in an effort to boost voter turnout, and it’s time to discuss more changes.

Starting with the Aug. 12 primary, Minnesota will change to no-excuse absentee balloting, which means voters no longer need to provide an excuse to election officials on why they can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh described this as a precursor to early voting, which happens in states like Colorado. There, voters can cast ballots starting 15 days before the general election and 10 days before the primary, with voting ending on Election Day.

While Election Day – and to a lesser degree primary day – comes with a certain clout, there’s no reason voting should be limited to one day, which is why absentee balloting started in the first place. The important part is that as many people as possible cast educated, well-reasoned votes. The date that ballot is cast isn’t as important.

The trends favor absentee balloting or even early voting. In the 2012 general election, 40 percent of ballots were cast before Election Day, and that number is likely to increase.

In Mower County this year, residents will be able to obtain absentee ballots at the city clerk’s offices in Rose Creek, LeRoy and Grand Meadow (absentee ballots are also available via the mail). While this may seem like a minor change to some, it will save residents living on the eastern side of the county a trip to Austin during work hours to obtain a ballot. Every little change helps.

The cities of Sargeant and Taopi will also switch to mail balloting to save on election judge and other costs. It’s just another sign that elections are changing, and it’s time for the public and elected officials to discuss ways to engage and include voters.

The elephant in the room is voter turnout. Only 9 percent of eligible Minnesota voters participated in the Aug. 14, 2012, primary – the second lowest turnout in the 62 years state officials have kept such election records. The 2012 election was better – 77 percent of registered voters in Minnesota – but there’s still room for improvement.

Other countries are switching to online balloting, which comes with several red flags: hackers, security, authenticity, etc. After the many pitfalls of the websites for the Affordable Care Act, it’s unlikely the public will rally behind on online voting anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth studying.

Are we saying it’s the right option? No. There’s far too many unanswered questions. However, it’s always the right time to be proactive in considering new approaches. Plus, the more we know now, the more secure such a system will be if it is indeed in the nation’s future, however far out.

No-excuse absentee balloting is a reasonable first step in Minnesota. It’s time to discuss other options.

Austin Daily Herald, July 16

All-Star Game benefited state

Target Field and the city of Minneapolis hosted the All-Star Game on Tuesday and just about everything went well. The weather was unseasonably cool, but that proved to be a blessing as the humidity levels were down. It was a great time to be outdoors.

Tens of thousands of baseball fans visited downtown Minneapolis, getting a glimpse of a beautiful, clean, safe, navigable major American city. There was no crime or mayhem either to detract from the sports proceedings.

Merchants and restaurateurs did well, according to news reports. And Albert Lea, as a freeway stop, typically benefits from the Twin Cities being seen as a place to host major events. The success of the All-Star Game is good for Minnesota as a whole.

A rainbow graced the home run derby on Monday, and a rain delay pushed back the event, which resulted in late-night fireworks. The booms and bangs at 12:30 p.m. didn’t set well with sleeping Minneapolitans. That was about the only hitch during the All-Star festivities that could be cited. It was small price to pay for the publicity and economic benefits.

Albert Lea Tribune, July 17