Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s contention that a 13-year-old law gave him the green light to launch a new online voter registration system is receiving support from two former legislators who sponsored the measure. Former state Rep. Matt Entenza and former state Sen. Deanna Wiener, both Democrats, say an online voter registration system Ritchie started does fall under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act passed in 2000. When Ritchie, a Democrat, announced the start of the system in September, he said the law required his office to provide online options for all paper transactions. “We’ve been able to get quite a bit, but not all of our business services online, as mandated by that 2000 law,” Ritchie said then. “We’ve been able to get some, but not all of our election services online as mandated by that law. But we’re slowly but surely getting there.”
Republican lawmakers flatly reject Ritchie’s interpretation. They argue the change should have received legislative approval. “It does not give Secretary of State Ritchie the authority to do this,” said Erick Kaardal, the lawyer for four GOP representatives and two election watchdog groups challenging the online system. “It’s an old fashioned stretch.”
Last week, Kaardal filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County, accusing Ritchie of a constitutional overreach.
In the 2000 legislative session, there was no hint of controversy. There was also no hint that the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act could have election law implications.
“Obviously with the growth of the Internet and electronic commerce, we in Minnesota need to make sure that our laws are in accord with the laws of other states dealing with the handing of electronic records and signatures,” Entenza, then a state representative from St. Paul, explained during a brief hearing in the House Commerce Committee.