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Online voter registration offered in Minnesota

Posted by: Jim Ragsdale under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: September 26, 2013 - 2:25 PM

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.

Ritchie, a DFLer, is not seeking re-election next year. One of candidates for his job, Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, praised the move to online registration and said he would try to pass a law next year to ensure that the online services are "permanent options for eligible Minnesota voters."

In an interview, Ritchie said the online improvements will save the labor of transcribing paper applications. "Our paper voter registrations are often very difficult to read," he said. "Mistakes can be made" when the names are transcribed, he added.

He said the state of Arizona has estimated that it saved 80 cents per registration by using on-line signups, which would make a difference for local elections officials in Minnesota.

The person seeking to register would need to submit the exact name, exact address, exact birthdate and the exact ID number -- either a Social Security or a drivers' license number, Ritchie said.

He said the state launched an earlier version that allowed voters to look up their registration, but not to change any information that was outdated or incorrect. The current improvements make sense at a time when so many people are online at work or at home, he said.

"For the people who are online, and that's where their lives are often taking them, this seems normal and rational," he said.

Dan McGrath, president of Minnesota Majority, which pushed unsuccessfully for a photo ID requirement for voting, said online systems "will be open to potential abuse" without a photo ID requirement.

"This could be a great convenience that would not contribute to voter fraud if coupled with a new voter ID law," McGrath said via email.

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