Thrust into the partisan hothouse of back-to-back statewide recounts, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie went out of his way to take on a referee persona despite the “D” after his name. But on the voter ID constitutional amendment now headed to the November ballot, he’s openly taken a side. Ritchie has steadily increased his opposition as the proposal advanced, to the point of arguing it will deprive voters of their rights. In the process, he has drawn blowback from Republicans and other supporters of the voting-law change, who accuse the state’s top elections officer of going too far. Ritchie acknowledged that he’s stepped outside of his default “stay out” approach to politics. “I’ve taken a very strong position in general that my job is to run the elections and be a partner with local election officials, and I stay out of other people’s lives and campaigns and their work,” Ritchie said. “But when something is about elections and about our basic election system, then I always take a more active role.”
Voters will decide in November whether photo ID will be required to vote in future elections. Ritchie warns that hundreds of thousands of voters could find their ballots sequestered and maybe never counted if they don’t have the correct ID. Republicans say it’s nothing but hype. “For the secretary of state to be fear-mongering like that to the entire state of Minnesota. That’s pretty blatant politics,” said Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina. Before going full bore against the amendment, Ritchie joined fellow Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton to push an alternative system of electronic poll books. He said it would shut out fewer voters. But the idea went nowhere.