Online voter registration, done correctly

  • Article by: DAN MCGRATH
  • Updated: March 7, 2014 - 6:31 PM

While a lawsuit proceeds, legislators are doing what the secretary of state failed to do — craft the policy openly.

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The House Elections Committee decidedly did not approve the process that was unilaterally implemented by the secretary of state late last year. In fact, members on both sides of the aisle in key Elections Committee positions have roundly criticized the secretary for implementing such a plan, which had already been twice rejected by the proper legislative process.

What the House committee did accomplish — with considerable input from plaintiffs in the lawsuit to overturn the secretary’s unapproved action — was to involve input from lawmakers, experts in the field and ordinary citizens to create a workable online registration system that isn’t subject to the whims of the current office holder. It was a truly bipartisan effort that passed in the House Elections Committee unanimously, an example of the legislative process working at its finest.

The ongoing lawsuit against the secretary of state isn’t about the idea of online registration. It isn’t about politics. It’s about transparency, proper process and rule of law.

Even though Minnesota Majority is a participant in the lawsuit against the secretary’s “go-it-alone” launch of online voter registration and absentee ballot requests, we’ve also been working with both sides of the aisle in the Legislature to craft a bill that would ensure public confidence in the system.

We’re expecting the court to determine that the secretary of state acted improperly by developing his own system behind closed doors and rolling it out without approval from the Legislature. Any other ruling would set a terrible precedent condoning usurpation of legislative power by the executive branch.

We’re also expecting a solid, thoroughly vetted, properly debated bill authorizing online voter registration to emerge this year. Six additional security measures were considered by the House committee, and five were adopted. More improvements look to be forthcoming in the Senate.

If the Legislature succeeds in enacting this new, more secure and publicly vetted online voter registration system, it would not in any way render the lawsuit against the secretary of state moot. The suit is of great importance because, especially when it comes to our election system, it should not come down to the whims of one partisan office holder how the system will run. Nor should the system be one that could be changed on the whim of the next partisan individual to hold that office.

Minnesota Majority is rooting for a successful online registration bill to be signed into law this year, even as we await the results of our suit against the secretary of state for going it alone in the shadows.

 

Dan McGrath is the president of Minnesota Majority, a government watchdog organization.

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