Voter registration lawsuit in judge’s hands

A lawsuit challenging Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s authority to create a new online voter registration system apparently won’t void thousands of registrations already completed.

During a Ramsey County Court hearing today, Judge John Guthmann said the legal vehicle used by the plaintiffs to bring their lawsuit against the state and Ritchie, known as a petition for quo warranto, doesn’t allow him to address past actions, only those moving forward.

Erick Kaardal, the lawyer representing four Republican lawmakers and two elections watchdog groups, told reporters after the hearing that he agreed with the judge’s assessment.

“In this petition, because it’s limited, we won’t be able to reach the people who have voted and those issues,” Kaardal said. “Those will have to be dealt with separately by public officials or by subsequent litigation.”

Kaardal argued in court that registrations should be halted because Ritchie created the system without specific authorization from the Legislature.

But a lawyer representing the state and Ritchie disagreed. Assistant Attorney General Alethea Huyser argued that Ritchie has authority under the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act passed in 2000. She said the law applies to all government transactions, except those that were specifically excluded.

“Legislators could have excluded election laws,” Huyser said. “They chose not to do so.”

The judge took the case under advisement and did not indicate when he might issue a ruling.

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