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1,000+ people have accessed new online voter registration system; Republicans keep up questions about it

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Democrats, Republicans Updated: October 14, 2013 - 4:17 PM

More than 1,000 Minnesotans have applied for new or updated voter registrations using a new website that has come under scrutiny from Republican lawmakers and the Legislative Auditor.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office said that the 644 Minnesota's had used the system, launched a few weeks ago, state to change their registered names or addresses and 200 had used it to register to vote. Another 218 submitting registration applications that are being processed.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have kept up their questions about the new system. Late Monday, Republican Senators formally asked the Democratic chair of the Senate Committee on Elections, Katie Sieben, to hold an immediate hearing on the online registration website.

In a letter to Sieben, of Newport, Republican Senate leader David Hann, of Eden Prairie, and Sen. Scott Newman, of Hutchinson, said that Ritchie "circumvented the legislative process" to create the online voter registration system.

In their letter, Hann and Newman noted that the Minnesota's Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said he examined, but could not share, a legal analysis Ritchie had done in house which backed up the Secretary of State's claim that he had the authority to create the online system without the Legislature's imprimatur.

The Secretary of State's office also refused to give a copy of that analysis to the Star Tribune last week.

Ritchie’s director of communications Nathan Bowie said: “We cannot provide our in-house legal adviser’s legal opinion as that is subject to attorney-client privilege.”

Asked why Ritchie did not waive that privilege, Bowie said: “Based upon the potential impending legal action, it would be imprudent to waive privilege for the office’s in-house legal counsel.”

The Republican senator's asked for a hearing on the issue "within a week."

"It is our understanding that you do intend to hold a committee hearing on this matter after the 2014 session stats. However, given the fact that it is currently being used, such a delay in action is simply not acceptable," Hann and Newman wrote.

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