Minnesota House passes “Democracy for the People Act”

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(ABC 6 News) – The “Democracy for the People Act” has been passed in the Minnesota House. The bill is centers around making elections more secure and expanding access to voting in Minnesota.

“You know, this bill has good portions and bad portions in my mind,” said Republican Representative Peggy Bennett.

Minnesota had one of the best overall voter turnouts in the country in the last election, but one of the worst among 18–24-year-olds.

The “Democracy for the people act”, if passed, would allow 16–17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. People could also be *automatically registered to vote, based on data from things like drivers’ licenses or MNsure enrollment.

Those who voted in favor of the bill like DFL Representative Andy Smith say this bill should help young voter turnout.

“So, we want to make it as easy as possible for those people to know that they can vote. To have the necessary information on where when and how to vote and for that to be a part of something as being a citizen of the United States, is that you vote,” said Rep. Smith.

Rep. Peggy Bennett says it’s important that people who want vote to have the ability to do so, but she has raised concerns about privacy.

“That’s public information now. So, their name number address phone number whatever they give. That is now public information. So, now we have these young people waiting to become 18, suddenly all their information is online for everyone to see. I think that’s a concern,” said Rep. Bennett.

Michelle Witte with the League of Women Voters says this should help streamline the voting process.

“This moves it to an opt out. This makes it easier. It also makes it easier on election officials and public officials. Just automatically registering to vote does mean you have to vote; you still get to decide. But that’s really the best way to do it,” said Witte.

Another key part of the bill is it addresses misinformation spread about elections. Both representatives Smith and Bennett agree that’s been issue.

“But I think having things be transparent who’s funding different election material or companies with foreign influence. I think we can all agree that we don’t want that kind of thing and that we want that transparency,” said Rep. Bennett.

“That is now considered potentially criminal and at the very least people can be sued for that and so this creates some guardrails for those types of conversations,” said Rep. Smith.

The bill was passed along party lines without a single Republican vote. But Witte thinks there is more common ground on these issues than it might seem.

“This is really again about everyone being able to have easier access to while also making sure the system has good safeguards,” said Witte.

Other pieces of the bill include permanent mail in voting for those who request it, ballots in languages other than English and closing loopholes in foreign entities influencing elections like funding campaign ads. This bill is still in committee in the senate.