MNVotes, the new website launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, makes it easier than ever to vote in the Nov. 4 elections. Minnesotans can register online, request absentee ballots, find their polling places and more. The website has a new look and functionality to allow voters to better access and interact with voter tools and information on their computers, tablets and mobile phones. “The enhanced functionality provides voters with an easier way to connect and engage with our voter resources and information,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
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.
Minnesota voters can now request an absentee ballot online at mnvotes.org through a new tool launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. The service allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot quickly and easily without the need to print, scan forms, and return by mail, fax or email. A similar tool for military and overseas voters was introduced in September 2013. Voters may request an absentee ballot for both the August 12 Primary Election and November 4 General Election. Ballots for those elections will be mailed when they become available on June 27 and September 19, respectively.
Minnesota: Lawmakers move to preserve online voter registration system after judge voided existing portal | Associated Press
Before a court order can kick in, Minnesota lawmakers moved Tuesday to preserve an online voter registration system overseen by the secretary of state. The Senate approved a bill authorizing the new registration system on a 41-24 vote, sending the measure already passed by the House to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democrat signed the bill, which will take effect Wednesday. On Monday, a Ramsey County judge ruled Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had overstepped his bounds by establishing the virtual sign-up unilaterally last fall. The judge ordered that the system be shut down by midnight Tuesday, absent legislative intervention. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said lawmakers should be working to ease the process of voting through new technology. “Voters across Minnesota want the convenience of being to register online,” she said.
Voting Blogs: OVR is Dead, Long Live OVR: Minnesota Set to Enact Legislation After Judge Invalidates Existing System | Election Academy
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.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie must immediately shut down the online voter registration system he launched last year because he lacked the authority to create it, a Ramsey County judge decided Monday. Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann said Ritchie had until midnight on Tuesday to close the system and confirm that he had done so by Wednesday. More than 3,600 Minnesotans have taken advantage of online registration. Guthmann said his order “does not invalidate any online voter registration accepted before midnight on April 29, 2014.” Guthmann said he also was making no determination on whether online registration was a good idea. Instead, he wrote, “sole question presented herein is whether Respondent had the legal authority to do what he did.”
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.
Last week Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released Recount Principles and Best Practices, a document providing recommendations on key recount matters such as counting methods, transparency, voter intent and challengers. The document is especially welcome as it was produced through the cooperation of election officials and citizen activists and it is the first comprehensive set of best practices for recounts. It compliments CEIMN’s earlier documents on audits and their database of state audit and recount laws.
In addition to the four authors, the report benefitted from review by a blue-ribbon panel of advisors, including election officials, election integrity advocates, journalists, and academics. “Accurate and verifiable elections are essential for our democracy,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie, one of the reports authors. “This document and its recommendations will improve the way state and local election officials conduct recounts.”
A Ramsey County District Court clock has been ticking since mid-December on a lawsuit filed by a handful of Republican officials challenging DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s authority to institute online voter registration, which he did in September. The Legislature ought to beat Judge John Guthmann to the punch. Soon after they reconvene on Feb. 25, legislators ought to give Ritchie the legal green light he may or may not have had last fall. Voters, election administrators and taxpayers benefit from the convenience, accuracy and cost-saving efficiency of online registration. Ritchie, who plans to leave office at the end of this year, maintains that he has always had the law on his side. He cites a law enacted in 2000 allowing government agencies to switch to electronic records and to allow for electronic signatures on forms and documents. His application of that law to voter registration caught legislators by surprise and was met with bipartisan skepticism and the lawsuit.
As the United States enters the critical mid-year election season with close outcomes all but guaranteed, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (CEIMN) announces a new and concise resource, Recount Principles and Best Practices. This document addresses a wide range of recount topics, including initiating mechanisms, funding, transparency, impartiality, counting methods, targeted recounts, and rules for determining voter intent. CEIMN convened four nationally recognized, bipartisan authors and a blue-ribbon panel of advisors to distill their extensive recount experience into key principles and best practices. Download the Document Here
Minnesota: Task force that led pilot project on electronic voting rosters backs another study | Star Tribune
A Minnesota panel that led a pilot project around an electronic voter verification process is urging the Legislature to authorize a more extensive study this fall. The Electronic Roster Task Force was meeting Friday to finalize a report and proposed legislation. The recommendations they were set to adopt seek a broader examination of the effectiveness and expense of a higher-tech alternative to the paper sign-in process at polling places. The panel asks the state to pick up costs of the next study and any technological needs required for local election administrators to carry out the test. The review would occur at more sites and in a busier environment than the 2013 pilot. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said a higher turnout election would offer a better handle of the costs versus benefits.
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.
Long lines at U.S. polling places could be shortened if state and local governments take actions such as allowing early voting and online voter registration, a presidential commission said Wednesday. Good ideas, Deputy Minnesota Secretary of State Beth Fraser said, adding that Minnesota already is making progress in key areas. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie implemented online voter registration last year, although Republican legislators, and some Democrats, say he should have received their approval before it launched. And Minnesota takes a baby step toward early voting with “no excuse” absentee balloting starting this year. Fraser said Minnesotans can expect their legislators to discuss allowing voters to cast ballots at city or county elections offices before Election Day itself.
Minnesota: Ritchie seeks dismissal of legal challenge to new online voter sign-up system | Star Tribune
A lawsuit contesting a new, Internet-based system for voter registration should be dismissed because plaintiffs lack standing to sue, attorneys for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie argued Wednesday. New documents filed in the case say those behind the lawsuit are seeking an extraordinary remedy and can’t show they’ve been injured. Four Minnesota Republican legislators and two advocacy groups filed the lawsuit last month. They argued that Ritchie, a Democrat, exceeded his power by creating the registration tool without explicit legislative consent. The formal response on behalf of Ritchie was filed ahead of a hearing next week in Ramsey County District Court.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is proposing a number of rule changes to state elections law which he hopes to see implemented in time for the 2014 primary elections. The changes would give greater options for proof of identification and residency in Minnesota, and seem aimed at making it easier for transient citizens and college students to vote. Rather than push the measures as part of a legislative agenda, Ritchie is seeking to enact them as administrative changes. According to the press release, both of his predecessors in that office, Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake,and longtime DFL Secretary of State Joan Growe also invoked their power to change election rules. Under one proposed rule, voters would be allowed to register using a learner’s permit in place of a driver’s license, and could also present an identification card issued by any other state as a valid form of identification.
Minnesota: Law cited to justify online voter registration passed with no controversy | Minnesota Public Radio News
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.”
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.”
Nearly 1,500 Minnesotans used Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s new online voter registration system last month, but the program’s legitimacy is under question. Four Republican state legislators and two conservative interest groups filed a lawsuit last Monday against Ritchie, claiming the program was created illegally without legislative input. The registration program, which debuted Sept. 26, allows voters to register or update their information through an online form instead of a paper application. During the site’s initial debut, which lasted about three weeks, the system registered 323 new voters statewide for the 2013 elections, and about 900 Minnesotans used the site to update their information. The plaintiffs are requesting the program end completely and its users re-register before casting a ballot. Until the case is heard, nothing will change for voters who have used the site, according to a report by the Star Tribune. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, that supports Ritchie’s program, said in a Nov. 1 statement the system “makes the process of registering to vote easier and more streamlined. Republicans are simply being obstructionist in opposing online voter registration … I commend Mark Ritchie for a job well done to move Minnesota’s voting systems into the future,” he said in the statement.
A group of Republican lawmakers and two interest groups who pushed for voter ID now are going to court to stop a state website that allows voters to register online. In a lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court on Monday, the group contends that DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie overstepped his authority when he launched the website in September. More than 2,000 Minnesotans have submitted voter registration applications since then. Dan McGrath, president of Minnesota Majority, said Monday that the lawsuit will not immediately affect anyone who used the system to register for Tuesday’s local elections. But, he said, it could be used to challenge the results of those elections, particularly in close races. The suit seeks action by mid-December. If a court found that Ritchie lacked the authority to start the website, the group could ask that votes cast by those who registered online be disqualified. More than 80 city and school board races are being held across the state on Tuesday, including mayoral contests in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
On Sept. 26, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State launched an online voter registration tool that was developed and driven by the goal to deliver a safe, secure and less expensive method for voters to register to vote. I am proud of the positive response the system has generated, underscored by more than 1,500 applications submitted since the roll-out — demonstrating the enthusiasm and action of Minnesotans when it comes to participating in our democracy. Every election year, Minnesota leads the nation in voter turnout. This is something we can take great pride in. Our voters deserve to have the tools to make the registration and Election Day process more efficient, and I strive to support the citizens by providing secure online tools that Minnesotans expect and appreciate in today’s technology-driven age.
Minnesota: Dayton says online voter registration system should go through Legislature | Star Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday sided with critics of Minnesota’s new online voter registration system, saying Secretary of State Mark Ritchie should have gotten legislative approval for the system before launch. “It’s a good idea but one that we should get legislative support,” Dayton said when asked about the launch. Since Ritchie launched the website allowing Minnesotans to register to vote last month, he has faced bipartisan and nonpartisan questions about why he did not seek legislative approval. Ritchie has said he has the authority under existing law to make such a change without an explicit go-ahead from the Legislature. Adding his voice to those of Republican leaders, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Katie Sieben and the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles on the issue, Dayton highlighted a rare breach among DFLers on election issues. Ritchie, who is not running for re-election next year, had no comment Tuesday, according to his spokesman, Nathan Bowie.
Last month, the office of the Minnesota secretary of state launched online voter registration to deliver a less expensive and more secure method for our citizens to register to vote (“Online voting system needs bipartisan OK,” editorial, Oct. 15; “Beware of online voter registration,” editorial counterpoint, Oct. 18). Minnesotans have responded enthusiastically to this new tool, with nearly 1,500 applications submitted. Along with praise of the system, we’ve also been asked: “What took you so long?” It is fitting that the state that regularly records the highest voter turnout in the nation has access to all the available tools that support voter participation. Online voter registration joins a series of other innovative web-based services from our office that help voters find their polling place, look up registration or absentee ballot status, view a sample ballot, and request an absentee ballot if in the military or working overseas.
A fight over online voter registration in Minnesota is becoming less about whether voters should have the ability to register over the Internet and more about whether Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) has overstepped his bounds. If the measure is implemented, Minnesota would become the 15th state to allow voters to register online. Both red states and blue states have set up online registration systems. But Ritchie, who has rubbed some Republicans the wrong way by pushing for new voting rules, has to get permission from the legislature before he moves forward, members in both parties say. “We don’t have concern about the policy, frankly. Other states have implemented it. We are interested in finding ways for people to register in a convenient manner,” said state Sen. David Hann (R), the Senate Republican leader.
Minnesota: GOP dogs Secretary of State on online voter registration even though he’s a lame duck | MPRN
Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie won’t be seeking re-election next year, but that hasn’t slowed the Republican criticism that has dogged him through two terms. Republican lawmakers have been pounding Ritchie for developing an online voter registration system, without first obtaining legislative approval. Among them is state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who is considering another run for the secretary of state job she once held. Kiffmeyer lost her bid for a third term as secretary of state to Ritchie in 2006. “Doing anything online has a risk with it, and especially something like this, and I just want to be sure,” Kiffmeyer said. “My concerns are it hasn’t gone through the legislative process. It has not been vetted by our state IT department, nor the expertise that we have. It’s been done on a unilateral basis.” She and other Republicans want the Senate Subcommittee on Elections to hold a hearing to address their concerns.
It’s high time for online voter registration to come to Minnesota, promising the convenience, accuracy and administrative cost savings it has already delivered in 16 other states, with two more state systems pending. It’s a shame that it arrived here under partisan and legal clouds that could threaten its staying power. Republican legislative leaders were quick to fault Secretary of State Mark Ritchie last week for initiating an online voter registration system without first obtaining explicit legislative permission to do so. Minnesota Majority — the voter fraud alarmist organization that pushed last year’s unsuccessful attempt to make a government-issued photo ID a voting requirement — said it is “consulting attorneys and considering legal actions” to block the new option. Ritchie had to see those clouds coming. The DFL secretary of state’s previous tangles with Republicans and their allies over ballot question wording and voter fraud served ample warning that a unilateral approach to online registration would meet with GOP criticism and possibly a court challenge.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie launched an online voter registration system last month with little fanfare, but now the state’s legislative auditor is underscoring lawmakers’ questions about whether he had any authority to do so. Ritchie created the system without explicit permission from the Legislature. A nonpartisan analysis, which Legislative Auditor James Nobles highlighted on Thursday, said the secretary of state could have followed the lead of top election officials in other states and asked for lawmakers’ approval before creating the online system. “We wouldn’t have the controversy if he had,” Nobles said. The wrangling over the online registration system is the latest clash between the DFL secretary of state and the GOP. Last year, Republican lawmakers questioned whether Ritchie used his office to campaign against the amendment to require a photo ID for voting. In another incident, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Ritchie overstepped his bounds when he tried to write new titles for constitutional amendments.
Top Republican leaders want the state’s legislative auditor to examine a move from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to allow online voter registration in Minnesota. In a letter sent to Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles‘ office on Monday, GOP minority leaders Kurt Daudt and David Hann, along with Republican election committee leads Rep. Tim Sanders and Sen. Scott Newman, said Ritchie “unilaterally” started the program without vetting the proposal in committee hearings. The program allows new voters to register online or returning voters to update their information.
Minnesotans can now go online to register to vote, update their current registration or apply for overseas absentee ballots, the Secretary of State’s office said. The website is mnvotes.org. “Today we join many states that have already demonstrated that online registration is secure and that it saves taxpayers money,” said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in a statement. He said online registration will supplement but not replace paper applications. His office said the system “was built to ensure that only persons providing verifiable identification numbers will be able to register,” and these applications will undergo the same verification process as paper applications. Minnesota is the 15th state to offer online registration, Ritchie’s office said. On Nov. 5, more than 35 municipalities and 113 school districts hold elections. Online registrations will be accepted through Oct. 15, and unregistered voters may continue to register at their polling places on Election Day.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to a third term in 2014. “This is the right decision for me and my family right now,” said Ritchie, 61. “When I did the math, if I would be honored by being re-elected, I would be closer to 70 than 65” after completing another term. He hasn’t decided what he wants to do after leaving office. “My public service will take a different form. I don’t know what it will be, but it won’t be as Minnesota’s next secretary of state. That will be for a new generation of leadership.” Vacancies in state constitutional offices are rare, and the announcement by Ritchie, a Democrat, is likely to set off a stampede of ambitious candidates for his post.
Minnesota: State could conduct pilot of electronic voter registration system under omnibus elections bill passed by House | Twin Cities Daily Planet
A trial run of electronic rosters included in the omnibus elections bill could be the first step toward a new voter registration verification system. Passed by the House 74-60 Wednesday, HF894, sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-Hopkins), includes other election reforms that would allow residents to vote absentee without an excuse and reduce the number of individuals someone can vouch for as a valid resident on Election Day from 15 to eight. The bill now moves to the Senate where Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) is the sponsor. “This bill moves Minnesota closer to joining the majority of other states which already offer their voters the increasingly exercised option of voting absentee without needing to provide an excuse,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said in a statement.