Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday sided with critics of Minnesota’s new online voter registration system, saying Secretary of State Mark Ritchie should have gotten legislative approval for the system before launch. “It’s a good idea but one that we should get legislative support,” Dayton said when asked about the launch. Since Ritchie launched the website allowing Minnesotans to register to vote last month, he has faced bipartisan and nonpartisan questions about why he did not seek legislative approval. Ritchie has said he has the authority under existing law to make such a change without an explicit go-ahead from the Legislature. Adding his voice to those of Republican leaders, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Katie Sieben and the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles on the issue, Dayton highlighted a rare breach among DFLers on election issues. Ritchie, who is not running for re-election next year, had no comment Tuesday, according to his spokesman, Nathan Bowie.
The DFL governor long has insisted that election-related matters have bipartisan support. Since the controversy arose, Republican leaders have said they are not necessarily opposed to online voter registration, just that the Legislature should have been allowed to weigh in. Online voter registration was not discussed in any major way during the 2013 legislative session.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, said he and Sieben, DFL-Newport, plan to introduce legislation next year that would formally authorize such a system, to “resolve any doubt” about its legitimacy. Simon said the law is unclear as to whether Ritchie already had the authority to create the system on his own. Simon, the chairman of the House Elections Committee, is running to replace Ritchie, who is not seeking re-election.