Dayton says online voter registration system should go through Legislature

An online system to register to vote should have been set up with legislative approval, governor says.

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.

The DFL governor long has insisted that election-related matters have bipartisan support. Since the controversy arose, Republican leaders have said they are not necessarily opposed to online voter registration, just that the Legislature should have been allowed to weigh in. Online voter registration was not discussed in any major way during the 2013 legislative session.

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, said he and Sieben, DFL-Newport, plan to introduce legislation next year that would formally authorize such a system, to “resolve any doubt” about its legitimacy. Simon said the law is unclear as to whether Ritchie already had the authority to create the system on his own. Simon, the chairman of the House Elections Committee, is running to replace Ritchie, who is not seeking re-election.

Dayton also was asked about the launch of the health exchanges in Minnesota and across the nation earlier this month. Minnesota was among the first states to get behind the national Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and is one of the states that launched its own health exchange instead of relying on the feds.

“Fortunately, we decided to go our own route in Minnesota,” Dayton said. “I think the MNsure beginning has been not perfect, but given the complexity and the scope of the project, I think it’s performed phenomenally well.”

Dayton’s comments came in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday, in advance of a hip procedure that will take him out of the public eye for about two weeks. The governor, who injured his hip over the summer, has been slow to heal. He heads to the Mayo Clinic on Wednesday for an injection of platelet-rich plasma that is expected to help.

Dayton told reporters that his hobbled hip will not deter his determination to run for re-election.

“Last I read, brain cells were located in the head, not the hip,” he said.

“I’m pretty tough,” the 66-year-old governor said. “Hopefully, this will correct it and if not, I’ll limp along with it.”

 

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • @rachelsb

 

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  • Governor Dayton answered questions at a news conference Tuesday, October 22, 2013, the day before he enters Mayo Clinic for an outpatient procedure on his injured hip. He answered questions on a range of issues including the hip procedure, ACA rollout and online voter registration for Minnesota.

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  • Walking with a slight limp, the governor headed to a news conference, where he addressed his injury and his determination to run again.

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