Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is proposing a number of rule changes to state elections law which he hopes to see implemented in time for the 2014 primary elections. The changes would give greater options for proof of identification and residency in Minnesota, and seem aimed at making it easier for transient citizens and college students to vote.
Rather than push the measures as part of a legislative agenda, Ritchie is seeking to enact them as administrative changes. According to the press release, both of his predecessors in that office, Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake,and longtime DFL Secretary of State Joan Growe also invoked their power to change election rules.
Under one proposed rule, voters would be allowed to register using a learner’s permit in place of a driver’s license, and could also present an identification card issued by any other state as a valid form of identification. According to Thursday’s press release, a “majority” of the states where same-day registration occurs allow voters to use out-of-state ID cards to register.
The rules would also expand the type of documents election administrators can accept as proof of current address.
Under Ritchie’s plan, a person could use a print-out of an electronic bill record in place of a mailed paper copy. Alternatively, a voter attempting to register on the day of an election could simply display the image of an electronic bill on a portable device such as a smartphone or laptop computer.
Voters could also present a banking statement as proof of residency, a method that is currently allowed in four states: Idaho, Iowa, Maine and Wisconsin. Ritchie also wants Minnesota to join those same four states in letting same-day registrants use their rental or lease agreements to demonstrate their current address.
Another rule change is intended to alleviate possible problems raised by changes made in last year’s elections omnibus bill. One aspect of that legislation lowered the number of voters an individual can vouch for from the previous maximum of 15 people down to eight, a move which some advocates argued could unfairly disadvantage college students or seniors.
“Employees of residential facilities may vouch for an unlimited number of voters,” reads the proposed new rule. “Otherwise vouchers may only vouch for a maximum of eight registrants.”
In a statement accompanying Thursday’s announcement, Ritchie said the steps would be necessary to help Minnesota maintain its top ranking for voter turnout among the states.
“We listened to and are acting on recommendations made by election officials and community groups to enhance and ease the voting experience,” Ritchie said.
A public hearing to discuss the rules is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 3, and additional hearings could be scheduled if demand exceeds the time constraints.
Ritchie is not seeking reelection next year, and his previous assertions of authority independent of the Legislature have often proved controversial, especially among the state’s Republicans. Ritchie’s recent creation of an online voting registration system is currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by conservative activist groups and several House Republican legislators.
MN’s secretary of state is totally out of control.