Authorizing election reform

Lawmakers must be given the opportunity to examine online voter registration.

Last year, Minnesota voters rejected an amendment that would require voters to show photo identification. In January, an elections task force created by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton released its recommendations regarding how to improve the state’s election process. The group’s suggestions for the state Legislature included switching to electronic poll books, allowing early voting and online voter registration.

DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a member of the task force, is currently in yet another tangle with Republican lawmakers after he launched a website without authorization from the Legislature allowing Minnesotans to register to vote online. Republicans, as well as some Democrats, have raised legitimate questions regarding Ritchie’s decision to bypass lawmakers and unilaterally authorize online registration. Dayton told the Star Tribune the site is “a good idea but one that we should get legislative support.”

Indeed, while implementing online voter registration is an important step to modernize the election process, it’s one that should come through the Legislature. Changes to election procedures can be beneficial, but if they’re made incorrectly, they could disrupt the democratic process.

Ritchie’s response to criticism has been troubling. Last week, he told Minnesota Public Radio  the courts can resolve the issue.

A legal battle would be completely unnecessary. Given the problems with the launch of MNsure, Ritchie should support lawmakers’ willingness to look into the website and resolve any potential snags.

Ritchie should suspend the online registration website and allow the Legislature to formally authorize it.