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Attorney Erick Kaardal said the misuse of taxpayer funds amounted to an ongoing "injury" to his clients.

The Capitol Note: Online voter registration gets day in court

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's online registration system was the subject of a hearing on Friday. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s online registration system was the subject of a hearing on Friday. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

1.) The judge handling a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie‘s online voter registration system hinted on Friday that he would prefer not to disqualify the thousands of voters who have already signed up using that website, according to the Associated Press. Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann was less clear on how he is leaning on the registration program’s continued existence. A group of conservative elections advocates and GOP legislators brought the suit against Ritchie, arguing that the new system should have been enacted by the Legislature. Arguing for the plaintiffs, attorney Erick Kaardal said the misuse of taxpayer funds amounted to an ongoing “injury” to his clients. Ritchie’s side was represented by the Attorney General’s office, which argued that the program’s legality is provided for in a state law that puts  electronic filings on equal footing with paper records. The judge did not indicate when he would rule on the case.

2.) A joint hearing of House and Senate elections committees is being held at 1:00 p.m. today to address inaccuracies and incomplete records kept by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. The apparently systemic flaws in that agency’s files were exposed in a recent investigation by the Star Tribune. At the time of the initial reporting, executive director Gary Goldsmith seemed to welcome the revelations, saying the news exposed how under-staffed that board is in the face of an overwhelming flow of documents. According to the meeting agenda, the committees will take testimony from the League of Women Voters, which is pushing for a comprehensive upgrade of the campaign finance board website.

3.) A three-candidate forum held in Andover found few differences among entrants in the 6th Congressional District race, according to the Star Tribune. GOP candidates Tom Emmer, Rhonda Sivarajah and Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, were relatively polite and agreeable in their exchanges, choosing to save the harsh rhetoric for Washington, D.C. and congressional overspending. On the topic of transportation, each of the three contestants said they favor roads and bridges over light rail projects, which Sivarajah referred to as a “boondoggle.” Asked about auditing the Federal Reserve, Emmer said that should be just one of the entities under review, eventually endorsing an audit of “everything” at the federal level. Former legislator Phil Krinkie was not in attendance, having turned down the offer to appear in protest of the fact that the event was not free and open to the general public.

COMINGS & GOINGS

  • Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, announced the members of his campaign finance committee on Friday, releasing an impressive list of well-known and historically generous GOP donors. Mark Evenstad of Upsher-Smith Laboratories will serve as the committee chairman; other notable names on Zellers’ team include Bob Ulrich, retired CEO of Target Corp., Brad Rixmann of Pawn America and lobbyist and former Revenue Commissioner Ward Einess.
  • Mower County GOP chairman Dennis Schminke has registered to run for the House District 27B seat now held by Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin. Poppe, now in her fifth term in the House, chairs the House Agriculture Policy Committee. Last year she won re-election with more than 62 percent of the district vote.
  • Hennepin County is hiring for a lobbying position on behalf of its human services and public health departments. The employee will represent the county in its dealings with the Legislature, including advocacy on legislative proposals. Ideal candidates would have at least five years of lobbying experience. More information available at the Hennepin County jobs website; applications are due by close of business on Friday.
  • The Minnesota Biodiesel Council has retained lobbyists Jim Girard, senior partner with the Cook Girard firm, and Andrew Duerr to represent its interests with the state. Those registrations bring the alternative energy group’s count of lobbyists up to four.
  • Evidently confident that voter ID is a dead issue, the advocacy committee Our Vote Our Future has terminated its registration with the campaign finance board. That organization was the chief opponent of the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment, which failed with 46 percent of the state’s vote.

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