The last resort

A lawsuit may be necessary to curtail Mark Ritchie’s unilateral action over online voter registration.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that four GOP lawmakers, along with two conservative groups, have filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend the voter registration website implemented by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie earlier this fall.

While the plaintiffs say they are not opposed to online voter registration, they argue that Ritchie does not have the authority to unilaterally launch the website, and they contend the system should go through the state Legislature.

Last week, the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board wrote in support of online voter registration but argued that changes to the election process must go through the Legislature. The Board also said a legal battle would be unnecessary and Ritchie should simply suspend the website until the Legislature formally authorizes it.

However, it now appears Ritchie was not bluffing when he said courts could decide the issue. Despite several Democrats, including DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, saying online registration should be authorized through by Legislature, it doesn’t appear Ritchie will budge.

Given Ritchie’s stubbornness, a lawsuit is apparently the only remaining viable option.

Regardless of online registration’s merits, changes to the election process must be examined and scrutinized by lawmakers before they go into effect. Another problem with unilateral action is the question of maintenance — if the secretary of state can implement online voter registration by himself, can he also decide to take it down just as easily? What specific policies, if any, are in place to ensure the website is simple and accessible? These are the kinds of questions that plague any new system when it’s not authorized properly.

Online voter registration has many benefits, but Ritchie’s action could jeopardize them. This unfortunate lawsuit seems to be necessary.