Tricounty News

Op-Ed from Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Proposed Legislation to Streamline Elections while Protecting Election Integrity The two statewide recounts in 2008 resulted in Minnesota's election system being put under an electron microscope. Benefits of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity included identifying areas where our election laws can be strengthened and proposing legislation that will increase the efficiency, security, and cost-effectiveness of our election procedures. Minnesota's election system is recognized as one of the best in the country; however, there are several ways the efficiency of our current system can be improved. With nearly 300,000 Minnesotans casting absentee ballots in 2008, it is obvious that citizens want to vote early-before Election Day. For a variety of reasons, many voters are unsure if they will be able to get to their precinct polling place on Election Day. Voting by absentee ballot is currently their only option. By offering early voting, the process for casting a ballot before Election Day would be streamlined for the voter and would reduce costs to local governments. Over 30 states already offer voters secure, accurate, and convenient options for casting early ballots. It is time for our state to catch up to the rest of the nation on this issue. Additionally, our state needs to use available technology to make the voter registration process more efficient and accurate. Just as eligible citizens updating their address via the post office due to a permanent move will soon have their voter registrations automatically updated, eligible voters should be registered at their current address the when they apply for a driver's license or state identification card, unless they opt out. Minnesotans wait in line to provide various forms of identification to prove they are residents of our state and citizens of our nation to get driver's licenses. Over a half-million people registered to vote on Election Day and were asked to provide much of the same information. With budget deficits challenging all levels of government this redundancy is madness-it increases costs to the state by doubling the amount of data entry, increases the likelihood of administrative errors, and inconveniences citizens. Use of available lists and databases will also strengthen voting system security measures. Currently, the Office of the Secretary of State does not have the legal authority to access the Corrections Department's database of convicted felons to prevent them from voting. The only legal option is to prosecute them after the fact. This is a tremendous waste of resources when a simple crosscheck of databases could prevent felons from voting in the first place. Legislation has been introduced that would provide election officials with the authority to access the felon database of the Department of Corrections. Using this information would protect the integrity of our election system while reducing costs to local governments that investigate and prosecute these cases. The 21st Century Voter Registration bill will strengthen Minnesota's election system while eliminating waste, improving security and reducing costs. This important legislation is moving forward in both the Minnesota House and Senate and it is my hope that our legislators and Governor will give these common sense, cost-effective changes their whole-hearted and enthusiastic support. Mark Ritchie Minnesota Secretary of State