Minnesotans should be able to register to vote online, a bipartisan panel of legislators voted on Tuesday. The House Elections Committee unanimously approved the practice that has been available — with considerable controversy — since last year. “I think it’s an issue that is kind of a no-brainer for the state of Minnesota,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office began accepting online registrations in September, although the law did not specifically permit it. DFLers, Republicans, Gov. Mark Dayton and the nonpartisan legislative auditor have said that the matter should have been approved by the Legislature first. Ritchie said existing law gave him the authority to start registering voters online.
Despite a still-unsettled lawsuit to stop the Web-based registrations, more than 3,300 Minnesotans have registered to vote online. A judge is expected to rule on the case by April.
By then, the Minnesota Legislature may already have put a practical end to the question by adding the force of law to online voter registration.
A Senate panel is expected to take up next week a measure to approve online voter registration. “We want it in law so that it is a state policy,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben, a DFLer from Newport and the chairwoman of the Senate’s Rules and Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections.