Legislators leap to action to keep online voter registration going

Monday, a judge ordered the system to be shut down. Tuesday, Gov. Dayton signed a revival bill.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Minnesota Legislature’s revival of online voter registration on Tuesday, just one day after a judge had ordered the system shut down, ruling that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie overstepped his authority in creating it last year.

“I am very pleased that this bill passed with bipartisan support in both bodies, and I look forward to signing it into law today,” Dayton said in a statement, soon after the Minnesota Senate gave the measure final approval.

The quick action means that Minnesotans’ access to Web-based voter registration, which more than 3,600 voters have used since September, will continue unimpeded. With Dayton’s signature, Minnesota officially joins about half of the states in offering some form of voter registration online.

On Monday, a Ramsey County district judge ordered Ritchie to shut down the online registration portal by Tuesday night because he lacked legislative authority when he launched it in September. This year, while the lawsuit against Ritchie was going, legislators began crafting their own measures to allow Minnesotans to register to vote online.

With court-ordered system shutdown looming on midnight on Tuesday, lawmakers moved with speed to get their own bill to Dayton’s desk.

“I do believe it is important that we pass a bill … and get it to the governor as quickly as possible,” Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, the bill’s sponsor, said on Tuesday.

The majority of senators agreed. The Senate voted 41-24 to approve it.

A Republican minority said the measure could have been better.

“All of us are in favor of it. It is simply a matter of what the final product is going to look like,” said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. “We are not putting on [the] table the best bill … we could do better.” He and others said the measure should have provided for more security checks and data privacy protections.

But Newman’s proposed changes, like those from other Senate Republicans, were rejected so the Senate could pass a measure identical to the one the House approved on a 129-2 vote in early April. Passing the same measure allowed the bill to be sent directly to the governor.

Dayton has long held that he would sign election-related bills only if they had broad bipartisan support. While the Senate measure included only three Republican votes, Dayton made clear that the overwhelming support in the House met his standard.

“All told, 62 of the 89 Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature voted in favor of the bill,” Dayton said.

 

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb

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