St. Paul, Minn. (March 21, 2012) — Secretary of State Ritchie today asked members of the Minnesota Senate not to be pressured by the House of Representatives’ rush to pass the Constitutional Amendment that would eliminate Minnesota’s 40 year old system of same-day registration.
“Putting an amendment on the Constitution is serious business that should only be done through a very thoughtful and thorough process. Our state’s Constitution is far too important to be amended on a partisan basis,” said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. “Instead of rushing to pass this amendment, they should give due consideration to the non-partisan, cost-effective alternative that would make it simple to visually verify voters without the need to amend the Constitution.”
The most radical aspect the proposed Constitutional Amendment is that it eliminates same-day registration as we know it. Adopted in the early 1970’s, same-day registration is what allows our state to consistently lead the nation in voter turnout and is used by more than 500,000 in presidential election years. If the proposed Constitutional Amendment is adopted, these half million voters could not cast a ballot that would be counted on Election Day. They would instead have to fill-out a provisional ballot that may or may not be counted at some point after the election. With this many votes outstanding, the outcome of elections would be unknown for days, if not weeks. This aspect of the proposal’s impact was confirmed when the House rejected an amendment to preserve same day registration offered by Representative Melissa Hortman.
Minnesota voters have always strongly supported same day registration. Since there has been no polling on the elimination of Election Day registration, it is difficult to predict how strongly voters will reject this amendment. However, last year the state legislature in Maine attempted to eliminate same-day registration and the voters rebuffed their efforts at the polls – supporting same day registration by a vote of 61 to 37 percent.
In addition to eliminating same day voter registration, the proposed Constitutional Amendment further dismantles Minnesota’s election system by disrupting absentee voting and creating the parallel system of provisional voting. It also leaves many questions to be answered by the next legislature, including the hoops that military and other absentee voters will have to jump through to get their votes counted, how many free IDs the state will have to provide to seniors who have given up driving, how long election results will be delayed so that provisional ballots can be processed, and how much property taxes will have to be raised across the state to cover the tens of millions of dollars it will take counties, cities and townships to implement these new requirements.
Secretary of State Ritchie said, “I urge the Senate to stop this rash drive to pass the proposed Constitutional Amendment that would dismantle Minnesota’s election system and eliminate same day voter registration.”