High Court: Voter ID, Marriage Amendments on Nov. Ballot
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday rejected a legal challenge to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls.
The high court tossed out a lawsuit from left-leaning groups who argued that lawmakers had failed to give voters the full scope of the changes that would result from the amendment.
In a separate decision, the court also threw out ballot titles written by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for the photo ID amendment and another amendment to ban gay marriage. Republicans had argued that Ritchie, a Democrat, overstepped his authority and was trying to influence voters to reject both amendments.
Both decisions were victories for conservatives. The Republican-controlled Legislature pushed both proposed amendments through over opposition from Democrats including Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton last year vetoed a bill to require photo ID, but has no power to block constitutional amendments that are sent directly to voters.
The lawsuit that sought to strike the photo ID measure from the ballot seized on the relatively brief language, with the League of Women Voters and other groups arguing that voters weren't being given enough information to properly understand what was at stake. Critics of photo ID say it will work against Minnesota's popular same-day voter registration.
The court majority wrote that the photo ID ballot question "is not so unreasonable and misleading" that it should be taken off the ballot. The justices said striking the question from the ballot would have been "unprecedented relief" and that the voters will be "the sole judge of the wisdom of such matters."
After the Legislature approved the ballot questions, Ritchie changed the title on both, sparking an outcry from Republicans who accused him of trying to sink the amendments with prejudicial language.
Ritchie changed the title for the marriage ban from "Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman" to "Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples."
He rewrote the photo ID title from "Photo Identification Required for Voting" to "Changes to In-Person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots."
Citing its own precedent, the court found that when the Legislature includes its own title for ballot questions, then it goes beyond the authority of the secretary of state to replace it.
The majority opinion said the secretary of state has "no constitutional authority over the form and manner of proposed constitutional amendments," and directly ordered Ritchie to restore the original wording as set by the Legislature.
Click here to read the Supreme Court Constitutional Amendments Decision regarding which titles should be used.
Click here to read the Supreme Court Constitutional Amendments Decision regarding their placement on the November ballot.
Mark Ritchie released the following statement:
“I thank the Supreme Court for its prompt action on this legal challenge to the law first passed by the state legislature in 1919, affirmed in 1981, directing the Secretary of State to title proposed constitutional amendments.
My office will continue working closely with local elections officials to ensure that ballots are prepared and delivered to our servicemen and women and other absentee voters so they have the time they need to fully participate in our elections.
I urge all voters to become familiar with the candidates on the November ballot and on the two constitutional amendments. The actual language proposed to be added to Minnesota’s Constitution will not appear on the ballot according to this court decision but can be found on the Office of the Secretary of State website at www.mnvotes.org.”
The Associated Press Contributed to this Report.