Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is stepping down in January after two terms in office, leaving behind a more modernized office and a tenure marked by conflict with the Legislature. He wants to let a “new generation of leadership” onto the scene, he said, but he’s not leaving due to a lack of energy. “He gets up really early in the morning and goes, goes, goes, goes,” said Dale Wiehoff, Ritchie’s former colleague and vice president for communications at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “He’s very engaged in whatever conversation he’s in.” Ritchie’s tenure has spanned a period of change and political contention for the secretary of state’s office, which is tasked with overseeing elections and business registration. Because of his initiatives over the past eight years, both voters and businesses can register with the state online.
Ritchie considers the streamlined business registration process his biggest accomplishment. He launched an online system this year that allows Minnesotans to register to vote. But in April, a state judge said Ritchie lacked the authority to create the website and ordered it to be shut down.
State Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, who is running with the DFL endorsement to succeed Ritchie, was one of the sponsors of the bill that ultimately reopened the system later in the legislative session. “I would say he’s chosen to err on the side of access for voters, and that instinct is admirable,” Simon said. “We do so much online now, like business services. Why not something with security safeguards that can help people vote?”