Four candidates for secretary of state (from L to R: Dan Severson, Bob Helland, Steve Simon and Bob Odden) appear at a University of Minnesota forum. Tim Pugmire / MPR News

The voter ID debate is getting renewed attention in this year’s race for Minnesota secretary of state, which is an open seat due to Democrat Mark Ritchie’s retirement.

All four candidates in the statewide contest addressed the issue today during a University of Minnesota Humphrey School forum. They also discussed early voting, ranked-choice voting, military voting and the role of the secretary of state.

Republican Dan Severson, who ran for the office four years ago, highlighted his proposal to create an “express lane” voting option for Minnesotans who voluntarily show a photo ID at the polls. Severson said  he came up with the idea after voters rejected a photo ID constitutional amendment in 2012.

“Obviously, Minnesotans were uncomfortable with a constitutional amendment. I get that,” Severson said. “This is another way in which we can secure our system and actually accommodate our system more effectively.”

State Rep. Steve Simon, the DFL candidate for secretary of state, slammed Severson’s proposal. Simon said that kind of system would wrongly segregate voters in separate lines and leave some out in the cold.

“It’s a way to marginalize and to ostracize and exclude people who don’t have the kind of ID that he and others like him think they should have,” Simon said. “I think this is a warmed-over version of the voter ID proposal that Minnesotans have rejected.”

Simon took several jabs at his GOP opponent. He called Severson a “partisan warrior” on an “ideological crusade.”

Independence Party candidate Bob Helland said he wants to eliminate what he sees as the “express lane” advantage that major party candidates have over the minor parties in ballot access.

“Why aren’t we talking about everyone going through the same hoops, rather than having those kind of express lanes,” Helland asked.

Bob Odden of the Libertarian Party said he too thinks a voter ID requirement could help speed up voting. Odden also said Minnesota voters need more ballot options.

“If you want to get more people voting, the best way to do that is provide more candidates,” Odden said. “Provide diversity on the ballot.”

The four candidates are scheduled to share a stage again Oct. 28, at a League of Women Voters forum at Augsburg College.

WASHINGTON – As the campaign enters its final two weeks, the liberal group Alliance for a Better Minnesota is launching a large ad campaign directed against Republican candidate Mike McFadden, according to a source with knowledge of the ad buy.

The high six-figure ad will attack McFadden on Medicare and Social Security, echoing a line of attack that DFL Sen. Al Franken’s campaign has been pushing recently. Super PACs such as ABM are not permitted to coordinate their activities with candidates but often follow the themes of the candidates they support.

The ad marks the first significant foray onto broadcast TV in the Senate race for ABM and the biggest investment in the race by an outside group so far. ABM is funded by labor unions and liberal donors, including Alida Messinger, the former wife of Gov. Mark Dayton.

It formed a federal super PAC specifically to defend Franken that is separate from its gubernatorial and state legislative election campaign accounts. That means the money cannot be spent on those state races.

According to recent campaign finance reports, ABM’s super PAC  has more than $859,00 on hand so the ad blast against McFadden will likely empty most of its coffers.

Republican-allied outside groups have mostly stayed out of the race.

McFadden is also up on the air with a new ad that features his daughter, Molly, explaining the personal qualities that would make her father a good senator. The McFadden campaign did not say how much it was spending on the ad.

A McFadden spokesman said the ABM ad campaign shows Franken is in trouble with voters.

“It looks like Democrats are just waking up to what we’ve known for months: this race is tightening,” said McFadden spokesman Tom Erickson.

Good morning!

In Minnesota

DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson highlighted their differences on gun control Sunday during the fourth of five scheduled debates of the campaign. (MPR News)

Meanwhile, the PoliGraph checks in on some of the economic claims made during the third debate. (MPR News)

Dayton is running on his record as the governor who raised income taxes on the rich, expanded kindergarten access and froze tuition at public colleges, raised the minimum wage, legalized gay marriage and built a new Vikings stadium. (Star Tribune)

It’s that part of campaign season when a never-ending stream of surrogates passes through the state. Hillary Clinton is holding a fundraiser  for Dayton next Thursday in St. Paul. (MPR News)

First Lady Michelle Obama will take part in a rally for Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken on Tuesday. (MPR News)

Vice President Joe Biden is adding a stop in Duluth as he campaigns for 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan. (Duluth News Tribune)

Franken campaigned in Native American reservations in the state with Montana Sen. Jon Tester. (Bemidji Pioneer)

The DFL has held the attorney general’s office for 43 years, and incumbent Lori Swanson hopes her record will help her extend that streak. (Pioneer Press)

Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District is getting some last-minute attention from a major super PAC dedicated to putting Republicans in the U.S. House. (MPR News)

National Politics

President Obama held a rare Saturday night meeting with top advisers at the White House, convening national security staffers and public health officials to discuss the threat of Ebola. (USA Today)

A top official at the National Institutes of Health said a travel ban on flights to and from West Africa would only make things worse in the fight against Ebola, pushing back against calls from lawmakers to institute one. (The Hill)

Democrats are hoping a last-minute surge of African-American voters will prevent their party from getting wiped out in midterm elections. (New York Times)