A couple of really interesting questions came up today as I circulated referendum petitions:
- It’s April 15. Ole Oleson really wants to sign a petition, but he hasn’t registered to vote yet. The circulator hands Ole a voter registration form. Ole eagerly fills out all the information, and the circulator promises to submit that form to the county auditor Ole. Since Ole will be a registered voter by the end of the week, and since his name will appear on the voter registration rolls when Secretary Krebs checks the petition after it is submitted on June 29, can Ole sign the petition on April 15?
- Lena Larson is a registered voter. She signs a referendum petition on April 15. But in May, she meets Sven Hjaalsgaard from Minnesota, falls in love, gets married, and moves to his farm northeast of Ortonville. She registers to vote in Minnesota on June 15. When Secretary Krebs reviews the referendum petition after it is submitted on June 29, will she count Lena’s signature as valid?
Ole: not technically a registered voter when he puts pen to petition on April 15, but on the rolls when Secretary Krebs opens the box and looks at the petition after June 29 (Schrödinger’s cat, anyone?).
Lena: registered when she puts pen to petition on April 15, but not on the rolls when Secretary Krebs checks.
Who’s legit, if anyone, in these cases?
Here are the answers, paraphrased from opinions sent in response to these queries today by the Secretary of State’s office:
- Ole’s signature is invalid. If the date accompanying his signature on the petition precedes the date the county auditor receives his voter registration form, Secretary Krebs throws that signature out. However, if Ole submits his registration form to the county auditor that day, then comes back, finds the circulator, and signs the petition, his signature counts! Even if it’s the same day, the county auditor must receive the voter registration form before that new voter signs the petition. (Of course, there’s no time of signing on the petition, just date, so we may have some trust issues….)
- Lena’s signature is valid! During the random sample verification of ballot measure petitions, Secretary Krebs will match names with the active voter file and with the unregistered (deregistered?) voter file. Signers who are registered voters on the day they sign remain valid on that petition even if they leave the voting rolls (by moving, death, or disenfranchisement by felony!) after signing but before Secretary Krebs receives and reviews the petition.
There you go: petition law made crystal clear. Ole, get registered! And Lena, live for the moment! That you are registered, right here, right now, at the clipboard, is all the matters.