During a meeting at the courthouse in Hallock Monday, U.S. 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, District 1 State Sen. Leroy Stumpf and a host of Kittson and Marshall county officials expressed concerns over the future of mail-in balloting and the costs to rural counties if a constitutional amendment restricting voting passes this November.
Peterson said he’s concerned about the consequences to eligible voters in his district, especially seniors who may not have access to a birth certificate to secure a photo ID. “Over 90 percent of eligible voters in Kittson and Marshall counties rely on mail-in balloting every election cycle. These are Minnesotans who depend on being able to return their ballots through the mail – a system that has worked effectively for years," Peterson said. "People ought to know the costs and consequences this amendment would pose to northwestern Minnesota before they vote. It’s a lot more complicated than people realize.”
Stumpf said he's alarmed at the estimated costs to rural municipalities if the amendment were to pass. “These are costs our rural taxpayers and local governments can’t bear," he said. "Anything put in statute can be changed. But if it’s locked into the state constitution, we can’t fix any resulting problems.”
Kittson County Commissioner Joe Bouvette said that “little issues to some in this state are big issues to those of us here.” He said mail-in balloting that over 90 percent of county voters rely on could not be easily or affordably replaced given “most of our townships don’t have a place to vote – a building, town hall or other accessible location to reintroduce in-person voting.”
According to a new report, GreaterMNCounts.org, issued by the League of Rural Voters and the Citizens for Election Integrity, 92 percent of Kittson county precincts (36 of 39) and 90 percent of Marshall county precincts (55 of 61) rely on absentee-balloting by mail.
Bouvette chided the state legislators who placed the amendment on the ballot. “I think they forgot about us again up here in northwestern Minnesota," he said. "This amendment is just costly and wrong for our state.”