Simon edges Severson to claim secretary of state

Steve Simon will replace Mark Ritchie, who stepped down after eight years marked by conflict with the Legislature.

Morgan Wolfe

State Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, had a joyful ending to Election Day on Tuesday, as he was declared Minnesota’s next secretary of state in one of the only open races on Tuesday’s ballot.

He defeated former state Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, in a close race and also toppled an independent and Libertarian Party candidate running for the spot.

Simon, a University of Minnesota Law School alumnus, captured about 48 percent of votes by press time Tuesday and will succeed current Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in January.

Ritchie, a two-term secretary of state, is stepping down after a tenure marked by conflict with the state Legislature. His push for online voter registration hit a snag when a state judge ordered it be shut down, but state lawmakers later voted to reinstate the process.

The secretary of state’s main responsibilities include administering elections and providing services to businesses and nonprofits in Minnesota.

“I’ve dedicated my legislative career to fair and collaborative consensus in making election laws,” Simon previously told the Minnesota Daily.

University political science associate professor and election expert Andrew Karch said the secretary of state’s office has typically been a partisan one.

“Both candidates have suggested that once the campaign is over … their job is to not necessarily be a representation of a political party but to make the electoral system of Minnesota function better,” Karch said.

Simon emphasized his intent to remain nonpartisan in his new role.

Along their campaign trails, both Simon and Severson said they want to improve the voting experience, but they offered
different plans for doing so.

Simon, who won the DFL endorsement to succeed Ritchie, said he wants to make voting easier for all eligible Minnesota residents.

“I am proud to have worked for seven years to bring a new law onto the books: the no-excuses absentee voting,” Simon said, “which I think was both a demonstration of more access for people and a very bipartisan piece of legislation.”

Though unsuccessful Tuesday, Severson had the GOP endorsement. If he would have been elected, he said he would have made it easier for active military members to vote from overseas.

He said he strongly believes in improving the voting system.

Severson supported a failed amendment to the state constitution in 2012 that would have tightened ID requirements for voters.

“The main focus is making it faster, easier and safer for people to cast their vote and to bring integrity to the election system,” Severson said.