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Lawmakers don’t like online voter registration bypassing them

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ST. PAUL — Lawmakers from both parties say that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie should not have started online voter registration without first obtaining legislative approval.

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But until the next legislative session begins February 25, there is little they can do other than to ask Ritchie to quit.

There is no sign the Democratic secretary of state will stop the new service. Since he put up the Internet site, he frequently has promoted it, even after lawmakers, a House researcher and the legislative auditor said that it would be better to pass a law allowing online registration.

Senate Republican leaders had asked for a committee meeting on the issue, which Senator Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, quickly granted, saying she agreed that the new system should have gone through the Legislature.

On Tuesday, Senator Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, asked Sieben to join them in writing Ritchie a letter asking him to suspend the online registration. Sieben did not immediately respond.

Ritchie said the online service would save taxpayer money and it was secure and convenient. Paper registration still is allowed, but Internet registration would be especially good for voters such as those in the service overseas, he said.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles has said that his office will investigate online voter registration, but did not say when.

A nonpartisan House analyst released a report saying that that state law requires voters to register “in person or by mail” before election day, with no reference to online registration. Voters also may register in person at the polls.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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