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Minnesota Secretary of State's online voter registration launches controversy

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October 21, 2013

By Kristen Mathews

Minnesota

In September 2013, Minnesota became the fifteenth state to allow online voter registration.[1] Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie authorized the system to go online without first addressing the Legislature, who then became concerned that Ritchie had overstepped his boundaries. Both Republican and Democratic members of the legislature worried about the privacy concerns associated with collecting online information and publicly criticized Ritchie for not presenting the idea for their review first, even though the registration system was tested by an IT security firm prior to its launch, and similar online tools had already been launched.[1] Deputy Secretary of State Beth Fraser addressed concerns in an open letter to Republican leaders David Hann, Kurt Daudt, Senator Scott Newman and Representative Tim Sanders.[2] The Secretary of State’s office “has repeatedly added to the online tools available to voters — tools that similarly were authorized under existing law and about which we have never heard a complaint,” Fraser wrote. “Online voter registration and online absentee ballot applications are the logical next step.”[2]

“This tool is saving costs, minimizing inaccurate records and reflects the integrity of the state’s strong voting system,” Ritchie said in a statement. After the website MnVotes.org was launched with the new registration feature, nearly 500 people had updated their registration information and 110 new voters had registered within the first two weeks.[3] The site currently allows pre-registration if applicants have an email address, can provide the number on their Minnesota-issued driver's license or Minnesota ID card, or the last four digits of their Social Security number. If applicants cannot provide the needed information they can print an paper registration or register on Election day at their polling place.[4]

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