Minnesota Governor Signs Online Voter Registration Bill

The Minnesota Senate voted 41 to 24 on April 29 to allow eligible voters to register online. Later in the day, the governor signed the bill.

A day after a judge struck down the state's online voter registration system, lawmakers and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton acted swiftly to get the program back up and running.

The Minnesota Senate voted 41 to 24 on Tuesday to allow eligible voters to register online. Later in the day, the governor signed the bill.

On Monday, a Ramsey County judge ruled that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie exceeded his authority last year when he set up the online voter registration system without legislative approval. So far, more than 3,600 Minnesotans have registered online through the program. Those registrations are still valid, but the court ruling meant that as of midnight Tuesday, no online registrations would be accepted.

Given the court's decision, Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, told senators it was critical to take action right away to address the issue. She urged her colleagues to pass the House version of the bill, which was passed last week by a vote of 192 to 2.

"I do believe that it's important we pass a bill, we pass the legislation and get it to the governor as quickly as possible so that Minnesotans can still have the convenience of the option to register to vote online," she said.

But several Republicans expressed concerns about the House version of the bill, arguing it lacked key data privacy protections. In total, they offered eight amendments to add security measures to the bill. Those included provisions that would have required routine monitoring and testing of the site to make sure it is secure, and a security audit. All of the amendments failed.

At one point, Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, implored Democrats to consider some of the Republican amendments aimed at improving the system's security. Otherwise, he said it would end up being a partisan bill, which would lead to further distrust among some about the state's election system.

"All we're going to do is have more and more controversy about the integrity of elections," Senjem said. "Our state can't take a lot more of that."

Senjem joined the majority of Republicans in voting no on the bill. He was the only member of the southeast Minnesota legislative delegation to vote against the measure. Two area Republicans, Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona and Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester, joined Democrats in voting for the bill.

Miller said he had heard from several constituents who urged him to vote in favor of online voter registration. He said it is important to realize that in order for individuals to register to vote online, they have to provide a driver's license number, a state identification card number or the last four digits of their Social Security card.

"With technology the way it is, I think people should have the opportunity to register online," Miller said.

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