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Letters: LWVMN advocates election law reform

In a recent letter Alan Roebke expressed his outrage that 12,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2008 election have not been counted and asked what the League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWVMN) has been doing to protect people's right to vote.

LWVMN has long advocated election law reform to assure that citizens are able to exercise their right to vote. We did not come to this issue in November, 2008, for the first time.

LWVMN shares Mr. Roebke's outrage that 12,000 voters who cast their ballots in good faith did not have their ballots counted in the 2008 election due to violations of Minnesota's complicated absentee ballot laws. Such a large number of errors made by voters attempting to cast a ballot is unacceptable and proof that Minnesota's current law is confusing and needs reform.

LWVMN worked hard this past legislative session to remedy this situation, successfully advocating for legislation that would have simplified the absentee ballot process for voters. The legislation passed both the House and the Senate. Unfortunately, Gov. Pawlenty vetoed the bill and the election reforms will not become law this year.

Regarding the rejected absentee ballots, we cannot pick and choose which laws we want to follow. While we agree that the statute governing absentee balloting is cumbersome, the fact remains that the law spells out what voters must do in order to have their absentee ballots counted. The 12,000 ballots in question were rejected according to Minnesota statute. The test for "voter intent" was not a consideration as the ballots were rejected based upon the failure of the voter to follow the necessary steps to cast an absentee ballot or because the ballots failed to arrive by Election Day, Nov. 2, as required by law.

It would be irresponsible for LWVMN, or any other organization, to advocate that the law be cast aside retroactively. Instead, we urge all who are concerned that everyone's voice is heard in our elections to work with us toward a system that ensures accessibility and fairness for all voters.

Vivian Jenkins Nelsen, Judy Stuthman, League of Women Voters Minnesota co-presidents