New Minn. Online Voter Registration System Under Fire

Updated: 10/11/2013 10:23 PM By: Stephen Tellier

Minnesota's brand new online voter registration system is coming under fire.

Republican leaders -- and now, the state auditor -- are raising questions about how it was set up, and whether the personal information of Minnesotans using the system is safe.

The system went live just a few weeks ago. It makes registering to vote quick and easy. But is it safe? And is it legal?

"We think that that's wrong, and he doesn't have the authority to do it," said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, the Senate Minority Leader.

Hann said he has no problem with online voter registration. But he does have a problem with how Minnesota's system was set up.

"What the Secretary of State has done, to me, is unbelievable," Hann said.

Minnesota's Republican leadership is upset Secretary of State Mark Ritchie implemented the new system on his own, without consulting with the legislature.

"The Secretary of State's authority is really questionable," said Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles.

In a letter to Republicans, Nobles agreed with Hann.

"He did not come to the legislature and get clear, explicit authority," Nobles said.

Nobles also said he wants to audit the system, to ensure personal data like dates of birth are fully secure and protected.

The Secretary of State's Office provided a statement that reads in part, "The Office has had the authority to implement online voter registration at least since... 2000." It goes on to state, "The office has been engaged in accepting electronic voter registration information for many years," via driver's license applications, and, "... the system was built with security as a top priority."

Still, Nobles said decisions as potentially controversial as election law should be made by lawmakers.

"I think that is really the place where these issue need to be discussed and decided," Nobles said.

The House Research Department found at least 18 other states currently have online voter registration systems. It said nearly all of them were based on some kind of law passed by the legislature in each state.

The Secretary of State's Office adds online registration saves money for county governments, and saves time for those registering.