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Lawsuit challenges online voter registration system in Minnesota

A lawsuit [petition, PDF] filed on Monday in the second judicial district court of Minnesota [official website] alleges that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie [official website] acted beyond his authority with the establishment of an online voter registration system in September. The petition was filed by a pair of conservative advocacy groups, Minnesota Majority and Minnesota Voters Alliance [advocacy websites], and four republican state congressman: Steve Drazkowski, Ernie Leidiger, Mary Franson and Jim Newberger. The sole respondent is the democratic secretary of state Ritchie. In previous months, Ritchie defended the online voter system on the basis that electronic signatures are a legally accepted signature for governmental documents pursuant to a state law passed in 2000. More than 80 city and school board elections are scheduled for Tuesday November 5, and it is estimated 2,000 citizens of Minnesota registered for these elections via the online system. It is unlikely the lawsuit will affect voter registration numbers for the election, but the petitioners may use the lawsuit to challenge the election results and continue to pressure Ritchie on the online voter system.

There is a trend across US state governments to allow citizens to register online, but the number of states to enact legislation remains a minority. Supporters argue that online voter registration streamlines the administrative process and it may encourage additional younger voters to register. In July the governor of Illinois signed a bill to allow online voter registration [JURIST report] beginning next year. The Illinois bill includes measures to prevent fraudulent voter registration.

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