Latest from Mark Ritchie, MN's new SoS
This man gets it.
Three Months, Rounding Second
The legislature recently got back from Spring Break, and the baseball season just started. Spring Break was a chance to look back over my first three months and to look forward. We have passed much of our legislative package through one or both sides of the Minnesota legislature. Soon we will begin to see what the Governor may try to veto and what we can override. Our top priorities include:
- Automatic Voter Registration- This proposal will allow eligible citizens to be registered to vote when get a driver’s license or ID unless they opt out. Additionally, address changes will be linked to the US Postal Service.
- No Excuse Permanent Absentee Ballots- Voters want and deserve this option.
- Military Voting- We’re reducing barriers that disenfranchise soldiers and all overseas voters.
- Helping Students- These proposals will eliminate some of the barriers facing young adult voters.
- Safe at Home- We will finally addressing an address confidentially program to protect victims of domestic violence.
- 24/7 Service- Our non-profit and for-profit business services will be available on-line.
In addition to working on legislation I have been busy with other parts of my job. As a Constitutional Officer, I serve on the State Board of Investment, overseeing nearly $60 billion in pension funds. My first meeting was two weeks ago, and many issues are beginning to surface. For example, legislators want us to stop investing in companies that fuel the genocide in Sudan. Citizen groups want us to look at the environmental impact of our investments. I want to know what we are doing to make sure that we are taking the 50 year view on our investments. On this front, there is potential for powerful change.
I also now serve on the board of the Minnesota Historical Society. Last month, at my first official meeting, I began to see how this new role fits with my lifelong devotion to history and historic preservation. Our Office of the Secretary of State will be 150 years old next year. During this anniversary year, I want to partner with the Historical Society and others to turn this sesquicentennial occasion into an opportunity to look deeply at the roots of our democracy. That will be fun!
Another official job of the Minnesota Secretary of State is encouraging civic engagement. Two weeks ago our office pulled together 60 of the more than 100 groups we’ve found that are working on civic education and civic engagement. The goal of the meeting was to help people meet each other and to start a conversation about how we could all begin working more closely together. It was a very high energy gathering — with great ideas and lots of folks looking for partners and collaborators. We talked about creating a state civic education council, hosting an annual summit, adopting a unifying topic during the Sesquicentennial, and finding new ways to communicate and cooperate. We had everyone from disability advocacy leaders to a State Supreme Court Justice. There were teachers, students and school board members along with a number of lawyers, including the president and the executive director of the MN Bar Association. We’ll meet again soon!
Although this is not an official part of my job, I have been so happy to be out in the schools with young several days each week. Last week I read aloud to elementary students about democracy and Dr. Seuss, gave a talk to high school seniors on voting, and spoke to the City and State Government class at the local community college. I am very proud to say, I was recently asked to do the commencement address at the first graduation of seniors from the first public Montessori High School in the nation, here in Minnesota. I am honored to have this opportunity to carefully think about what I want to say to this next generation of voters. For a taste of what I am thinking check out my op-ed about keeping Minnesota #1. It’s running in papers statewide.