Dan Severson, the Republican Party's candidate for Minnesota secretary of state, wants to make voting as easy as a quick trip through a grocery store's express lane.
Making his second bid for the office after losing to incumbent DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in 2010, Severson campaigned in Pequot Lakes and Brainerd last week.
Long voting lines, particularly in the Twin Cities area, pose an obstacle for time-pressed voters, he said. Severson would like to create express lane voting where those who obtain a state-approved identification card could go to a special line and vote with the swipe of a card, bypassing the normal registration process. The system he envisioned would be optional and cities and counties would have the right to ask the state for funding to help pay for the express lane. The former lawmaker said he sees the proposal as a way to cut down on clerical paperwork. Information needed to validate the voter's ID would be on the card.
He said no one would be disenfranchised by the express lane since it would be optional and voters could still use the old system of voting. He would also like to see poll officials have the ability to query databases in order to make sure people who use same day registration are eligible to vote. He said there would be cost to update technology to verify new registrants but it was worth it.
"What people want in Minnesota is a secure system," Severson said. "I don't put a price tag on that."
When considering potential law changes for the state's election system, he considers three questions. Is it secure? Is it accessible? Does it engender participation?
This election year, with Ritchie stepping down, Severson will face Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, the Democrats' choice for secretary of state.
Severson is a retired U.S. Navy pilot, the founder of the nonprofit Minority Liberty Alliance and former lawmaker who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003-2010.
Another task he would set out to achieve in his first 100 days in office is to increase the military vote participation from the 5 percent figure in 2012 to the approximately 80 percent figure seen for other Minnesota voters. He would do this by seeking authorization of online voting for active military on secure Department of Defense computer sites.
Severson said that after the 2008 recount of the U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman the state should have done an analysis of the entire voting system. He would ask the legislative auditor to do such an analysis and would also do one of his own, if elected secretary of state.
He criticized the incumbent for changing the titles of proposed constitutional amendments that would have required photo identification for voters and banned gay marriage. The court system, Severson said, ruled that Ritchie did not have the authority to change the titles.
"I think we need to bring credibility back to the office," Severson said.
The Republican candidate, a resident of Sauk Rapids, also promised to establish a private sector panel of business leaders and small business owners who could identify barriers to fledgling businesses. Severson would then advocate for legislation that would improve the state's business climate.