Election Law

Minnesota judge orders shutdown of online voter registration system

A state court judge in St. Paul, Minnesota, ruled today that an online voter registration system launched by Minnesota’s secretary of state last September must cease operations by midnight Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Because it was done without permission from the legislature, Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann ruled, the online approach for registering voters was not properly established.

Guthmann also ruled, however, that the online registrations of the thousands of voters who used the system in recent months are valid.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by two Republican policy groups, the Minnesota Voter’s Alliance and the Minnesota Majority. They charged that the online registration system violated state election laws requiring registration in person or by mail, KARE 11 television news of Minneapolis reported earlier.

The online system gathered the same information and used the same process for checking the validity of information, but state law requires signatures on paper. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie invoked the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act of 2000, passed that year by the state legislature. It permits electronic signatures in state business.

The legislature passed legislation in 2007 that included online registration, but then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed it, saying he did not approve of election reforms that do not have clear bipartisan support. Most Republicans were against the bill. In anticipation of the judge’s ruling, the state senate had been considering proposed legislation this session that would allow the online registration to continue.

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