Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree that online voter registration is a good idea — if it is done right. At least, that consensus emerged Tuesday during a House Elections Committee hearing on a bill that would authorize online registration and absentee ballot applications. Registering online is “user friendly, cheaper and more reliable” than filling out paper applications, said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, the committee chairman and bill sponsor. Minnesota voters already can register electronically. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie started accepting online registrations in September. So far, about 2,500 voters have registered on the new website.
But a group of Republican legislators and two election watchdog groups filed a lawsuit in November challenging the validity of the new registrations, arguing that Ritchie exceeded his legal power by creating the new system without the Legislature’s authorization. Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann is expected to rule on the case in March.
Regardless of how the judge rules, Simon said lawmakers should make sure that online registration is legal and secure. Both voters and local election officials want it, said Deputy Secretary of State Beth Fraser.
“Everyone wants to increase access” to voting, said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. But he cautioned that the legislation should include security provisions to prevent voter fraud.