Secretary should have tackled this differently

The Minnesota Secretary of State is entrusted with the task of ensuring fair elections. Secretaries of state also have been at the forefront of promoting voting rights and voting registration, and Minnesota is a leader in voting turnout. All of which is a credit to our state and to secretaries past and present.

Secretary Mark Ritchie recently and quietly launched an online voter registration system. Hundreds have used it to update their registrations, while a little more than a hundred have registered for the first time. The new system has the same requirements as the paper system. Ritchie argues it saves costs, improves accuracy and boosts citizen involvement.

He makes good points. But his history is working against him. Critics in the Legislature remember the secretary’s actions against constitutional amendment proposals passed by lawmakers. The state Supreme Court even said he overstepped his bounds in trying to rewrite the titles of those amendments.

Now, the state legislative auditor says Ritchie has gone too far with the new voter registration system. Ritchie may again have done something for which he does not have the authority. And critics have concerns about the security of the new system.

We are willing to give Ritchie the benefit of the doubt because he is trying to do the right thing. But he clearly could have done better, namely what his colleagues did in other states – gain lawmakers’ support and win their approval before diving into something that is sparking controversy.