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Ballot access a focus for secretary of state candidate

Secretary of state hopeful Steve Simon touted ballot access, election reform and voting rights as his top priorities last week while making a campaign stop in Red Wing.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve really put my heart and soul into exactly these issues,” said Simon, a DFL state representative and chair of the House Elections Committee.

He said he aims to continue that work as secretary of state to make voting more accessible to more people.

Simon has been involved in a number of election reforms and debates as a legislator, including the defeat of the voter ID amendment in 2012 and bringing “no excuses” absentee voting to the state.

The latter, which allows voters starting this year to request absentee ballots without providing a reason, is Simon’s proudest accomplishment. He said he now wants to take the next step by introducing early voting to Minnesota.

“Voting used to be a one-shot deal, and in the 21st century, to accommodate people’s increasingly hectic, busy, complicated lives, I think it’s a good thing to enable them to have more opportunities,” he said of the concept to allow voting at the polls 10 days to two weeks before Election Day.

Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas are among 33 states that give residents the option of casting ballots early.

Minnesota typically has one of the highest voter participation rates in the country, but Simon said he would like to see greater outreach in certain geographic and ethnic communities that are below the state average.

Simon received the DFL endorsement at the party’s convention in May, something he called “a nice slingshot into the general election.”

He will compete against Gregg Iverson of Minneapolis and perennial candidate Dick Franson in the DFL primary. Independence Party candidates are Bob Helland and David Singleton.

Winners of the Aug. 12 primary will face GOP candidate Dan Severson, who won the party’s endorsement in May over former state Sen. John Howe of Red Wing.

Although he and his fellow candidates are affiliated with political parties, Simon said he would live up to Minnesotans’ expectation that the secretary of state office will work for the betterment of all citizens.

“I’m proud to be a Democrat,” he said, “but at some point you have to leave some of that stuff at the door.”

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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