The Minnesota Supreme Court on Friday, June 15, agreed to let lawyers for the Legislature intervene in a lawsuit challenging voter ID, one day after Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said he would not defend the proposed amendment’s language. The lawsuit seeks to keep off the November ballot a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment that would require voters have photo IDs. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case July 17 and is expected to issue a decision relatively soon to ensure ballots are ready by Nov. 6. As Minnesota’s secretary of state, Ritchie is named in the lawsuit. On Thursday, Ritchie wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea that he has a “ministerial duty to ensure that the ballots are properly printed, not to take a side as to whether a ballot question proposed by the Legislature accurately or completely represents a Constitutional amendment under consideration. I therefore will not be filing a brief in this matter. I look forward to honoring and following the Court’s decision in the preparation of the ballots.”
Ritchie’s decision is “extremely disappointing,” said Senate GOP spokesman Steve Sviggum. “I think he should defend the law as passed by the House and Senate.” Sviggum added that it’s a good thing House and Senate leaders pushed to have the Legislature included as an intervenor in the case, because otherwise “there would have been no one there to vigorously defend the voters’ right to vote on this.” The Republican-led House and Senate voted in April to put the voter ID question on the November ballot.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a suit May 30 arguing that the question is misleading and should be kept off the ballot. Ritchie’s decision not to mount a defense to a lawsuit shows the ballot question is flawed, one of the groups, the League of Women Voters, said Friday. “Secretary Ritchie’s decision to not file a brief supporting the ballot language supports our contention that the ballot question misleads Minnesota voters,” said LWV Minnesota President Stacy Doepner-Hove.