Last fall, I wrote about Minnesota’s new online voter registration system (OVR) – implemented without legislation by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Since then, the state legislature has been moving forward with a bill to enact OVR – a bill which must receive bipartisan support in order for Gov. Mark Dayton to sign it. Yesterday, the two threads of that story came together in an interesting way. A day after the House enacted OVR legislation by a wide margin in preparation for a Senate vote, a local judge invalidated the state’s existing OVR system as an improper exercise of the Secretary of State’s authority.
… In the end, then, it appears that Minnesota will keep OVR and legislators will get the opportunity to reassert their authority over the Secretary of State on election law matters.
But I have to wonder: given the state’s divisive partisanship in the wake of two recounts and the 2012 voter ID vote, would the legislature have moved as decisively as it did to enact OVR *without* the Secretary of State’s unilateral move? In other words, did the Secretary’s establishment of an OVR system present possible opponents with the challenge of what would have been a repeal rather than a rejection of the practice?
Obviously we’ll never know – but as the state moves toward little to no interruption of its embrace of online voter registration, it seems interesting to consider whether or not the latest round of bipartisanship in Minnesota might not owe its success to a little partisan push.