Minnesotans have always taken great pride in our brave men and women who have put on a military uniform and answered the call to serve our state and nation. As our nation recognizes the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, it should be noted that Minnesotan’s were among the first to answer Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion. The famous “Minnesota First” was not only famous for being the first in the nation to volunteer to fight to save the union, but they were also famous for having suffered the highest rate of casualties in a single engagement during the entire war.
This proud tradition of answering the call to serve and defend our country continues today with many Minnesota National Guard Reserves and active duty soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan and other locations all across the globe. The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State is committed to ensuring that our troops, no matter where they are stationed away from home, can participate in the democracy they stand to defend.
Beginning in 2007, Minnesota strongly advocated for legislation to allow ballots to be e-mailed to our troops to reduce ballot transit time and increase participation rates. In 2008, the legislation was adopted and effectively cut ballot transit time in half for our troops and other overseas voters no matter where they were stationed.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has been a stalwart supporter of military voters and has helped to remove numerous bureaucratic hurdles in the military and overseas absentee balloting process. In particular, his office partnered with the Overseas Vote Foundation to create an easy-to-use, online service for military and overseas voters to assist them with their voter questions and facilitate their requests for absentee ballots. He also has worked with the legislature to allow email delivery of absentee ballots and moved the primary to allow sufficient time for military ballots to be received and returned.
The results of these reforms and innovations have been dramatic. Military voting tripled from 2006 to 2008 with more than 3,000 service men and women successfully casting ballots. Military and overseas voters’ absentee ballot rejection rates in 2008 were reduced—down to less than 2 percent compared to 3.5 percent for domestic absentee voters. Minnesota was recognized for its leading efforts to build overseas and military voter participation and for having one of the highest military and overseas voter satisfaction rates in the country in 2008.
To recognize the selfless courage and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces this office launched its Vote in Honor of a Veteran initiative in 2008 to remind Minnesotans that our right to vote did not come free. This program continues in 2012 to encourage Minnesotans to honor the service of our veterans by participating in our elections.
The need to do right by our veterans continues. The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State is committed ensuring that those who put on a uniform and defend our right to vote can register to vote, receive their ballots, track their ballots and be confident that their vote was counted.