The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday vigorously questioned attorneys from both sides of the Photo ID debate and is expected to rule by late August on whether the proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot. The suit, brought by the League of Women Voters and other activist groups, asks the court to strike the proposal from the ballot, arguing that the current language doesn’t accurately portray the amendment’s effects. An attorney for the state Legislature argued that the court lacks the authority to dictate the form or status of constitutional amendments. The justices’ mood in the courtroom — pointed at some times and lighthearted at others — gave little indication what the court will do with the amendment. At least two justices seemed to indicate that they consider the ballot question misleading — which is what opponents of the amendment argue — but then in almost the next breath defended the Legislature’s authority to craft amendments.
Opponents of Photo ID would have to convince the court that the ballot question — which makes no mention of a proposed provisional voting system or different standards for absentee voters — is “so unreasonable and misleading as to be a palpable evasion of the constitutional requirement to submit the law to a popular vote,” according to legal precedent. Bill Pentelovitch, an attorney for the League, told the court that the ballot question doesn’t adequately inform the public of what it’s voting on, a view that resonated with Associate Justice Paul Anderson. “Questions can be deficient by omission as well as misstatement,” Anderson told the Legislature’s attorney, Thomas Boyd. “Let me submit, you have a major omission here that I think can cause real problems for the voters.”
Anderson, one of the most outspoken justices at the proceedings, also questioned how the amendment itself would affect voting in the future. “Does this provisional voting provision in the amendment essentially eviscerate Election Day registration such that it would have affected one-sixth of the voters … in 2008?” he asked. “If the Legislature presents something that’s deceptive, don’t we have the right to review that?”