MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota DFL Sen. Jim Carlson is calling for alternatives to in-person voting that can guarantee Minnesotans their “fundamental right to a free and fair election.”

In the midst of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19, where any large gatherings are prohibited and social distancing is necessary, this has caused a strain on in-person voting.

“Ensuring a fair and legitimate election during this public health crisis must be a priority for Minnesota’s policymakers, but it should not come at the cost of the lives of our citizens,” Carlson said. “Look no further than our neighbors in Wisconsin, where thousands of people were forced to choose between their health and fulfilling their civic duty. Now is the time for us to prepare a contingency plan to make sure our elections are adapting to this new normal without putting people at risk.”

Despite efforts to postpone the Wisconsin Primary Election to a later date, the primary went on as scheduled on Tuesday. In Milwaukee, 175 out of 180 polling locations were closed, lines stretched in the thousands, waiting times to vote went well over two hours, and National Guard members were used to staff polls due to the shortage of poll workers.

“There is no reason for us to follow the dangerous precedent that Wisconsin set, where people are forced to choose between their health and their vote. During this unprecedented public health crisis, let us implement procedures that ensure the integrity of our election and the safety of our citizens,” Carlson said.

Carlson supports legislation authorizing the Secretary of State to implement procedures that prioritize public health and election integrity during peacetime emergency, including statewide vote by mail. Voting by mail is already a widespread practice for those who vote absentee and voters overseas.

Related: Coronavirus In Minnesota: Steve Simon Proposes Bill To Expand Mail-In Voting

Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan released a statement on the matter — regarding Secretary of State Simon’s push for vote by mail:

“As our nation grapples with a new normal filled with stress, anxiety and illness, Secretary of State Steven Simon’s push to change our voting system just adds to the chaos,” Carnahan said. “Minnesota has a great, no-excuse absentee voting system in which any eligible voter can vote by mail, without any changes to the law, should they choose to do so. Attempting to change a law now for elections that are months away is extremely premature and a disappointing power grab by the Democrats at a time of extreme unease.”

Currently, 1,080 precincts representing 26% of the total precincts in Minnesota are vote by mail. More than 160,000 people already vote by mail in these precincts and hundreds of thousands more vote absentee by mail in Minnesota. Several states including California, Oregon, Washington and Utah already have universal vote by mail.

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