Minnesotans should be able to use a website to register to vote, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers voted on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the House Elections committee on a bipartisan vote approved the online practice that has been available — with considerable controversy — since last year.

“I think its 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 last year without specific legislative instruction to do so. Democrats, Republicans and the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor said last year that the matter likely should have been approved by the Legislature first. Ritchie claims 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 decide the case by April.

By then, the Minnesota Legislature may have already put a practical end to the question of Ritchie's authority to create the online system. The legislative action would add the force of law to online voter registration.

A Senate panel is expected to take up a measure to approve online voter registration next week. The House may deal with the issue more expediently.

“To the extent that we can move it quickly, we’re better off,” Thissen said. With Tuesday's vote in committee, the House bill is ready for a full floor vote.

Gov. Mark Dayton said last year he believed the idea of online registration was a good one but it should have gone through the Legislature.

More than two dozen states offer voters online registration, although some states allow more limited web-based registration than others, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

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