Panel approves Minn. online voter registration bill
By Bill Salisbury
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota’s online voter registration system moved a step closer to winning the Legislature’s blessing Monday.
The Senate Elections Subcommittee voted unanimously to approve a bill that authorizes the system that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie put in place in September without the Legislature’s specific authorization.
That sparked a sharp reaction from Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican lawmakers, Gov. Mark Dayton and the legislative auditor, who argued Ritchie should have gotten legislative approval first. The secretary contended existing law gave him the legal power to start registering voters electronically.
But Ritchie’s action is being challenged in court by a group of Republican legislators and two election watchdog groups. Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann is expected to rule on the case this month.
The Legislature could pre-empt the court by passing the bill before Guthmann issues his decision.
The bill’s sponsor, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said the measure would ensure online registration would be legal and secure.
Minnesotans can conduct most other transactions with the state online, and Sieben said they should be able to register to vote “from the comfort of their homes. … We need to keep pace with the times.”
More than 3,000 Minnesotans have already signed up online to vote, and the bill states that their registrations would remain valid.
A companion bill is awaiting a vote on the House floor.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.