Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie campaigned for office six years ago pledging that he would halt the “playing politics with the office.” And now the state’s highest court will decide whether he is doing just that. With his every move scrutinized, Ritchie, a DFLer, opted to change the titles of two ballot amendments that would ban same-sex marriage and change the state’s voting system to require photo IDs and institute provisional balloting at the polls. Opponents say Ritchie’s wording is a clear injection of the bias he claims he wants to keep out of the office, but Ritchie says he is describing the amendments accurately and is within the law. “Is it uncomfortable to be the object of anger and controversy?” Ritchie said. “Yes. But I’m very thick-skinned.” Ultimately, he said, “following the law is a very comfortable position.”
An appeals court on Tuesday asked the California secretary of state to explain why Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative should be first on the November ballot. The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento agreed to examine a challenge to the decision, one day after the state’s chief elections officer assigned numbers to 11 measures on the November ballot. Although no hearing was set, the secretary of state has until July 30 to respond. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is challenging a new law that placed the Democratic governor’s tax initiative at the top of a crowded ballot as Proposition 30. The bill, AB1499, moved the governor’s measure ahead of others because it involves a constitutional amendment.
What’s in a name? Well, it may be the difference between winning and losing, according to supporters and opponents of two referenda heading for the ballot in November. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has now renamed both of them. First, he renamed the marriage amendment “Limiting The Status Of Marriage To Opposite Sex Couples.” It had been called “Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman.” The most recent change came this afternoon, when Ritchie decided to rename the state’s proposed voter ID amendment, designated by its legislative sponsors “Photo Identification Required for Voting.” Ritchie decided to rename the amendment “Changes to In-Person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots.” Supporters quickly cried foul.
California: California Becomes Sixth State To Call For Amendment Against Citizens United Ruling | Huffington Post
One of the largest states in the nation took an official stand Thursday against the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that government restriction of corporation or union spending on political campaigns violated the First Amendment right to free speech. California joins Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico in calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. State assembly members Bob Wieckowski (D-Calif.) and Michael Allen (D-Calif.) introduced the campaign finance reform bill in January, calling for the federal government to send a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United to all the states for ratification. The measure also would serve as an official symbol of California’s disagreement with the ruling.
An Ohio coalition of voter groups said Tuesday that it has the signatures needed to get a question on the November ballot that aims to take away elected officials’ power to draw legislative and congressional districts. The state alters legislative and U.S. House district boundaries every 10 years to reflect population shifts. New maps were put in place for this year’s elections. The Voters First coalition is handing in more than 430,000 signatures to state officials on Tuesday to get its constitutional amendment before voters.
The “Show Me State” of Missouri has a lot to show Minnesota about the travails of trying to require voters to show a photo ID before casting ballots. Short version: It won’t be easy. Six years after the law first passed in Missouri, the state’s voter-friendly courts have kept photo ID and related election-law changes off the books and even off the ballot. Minnesota advocates on both sides have taken notice. “It does show a path to success,” said Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota, which opposes the election law changes and hopes to duplicate Missouri’s record of blocking them in court. “The Missouri legislature really screwed up,” responds Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority, which supports the photo ID requirements. “The Minnesota Legislature didn’t make the same mistake.”
Delaware: Bill Eliminating 5-Year Waiting Period for E-Felon Voting Rights Passes Legislature | WGMD
The state Senate Thursday passed the first leg of a constitutional amendment that would allow eligible felons to vote after completing their sentences instead of having to wait for an additional five years. House Bill 9 would eliminate a five-year waiting period that eligible felons who have fully discharged their sentences must endure before they can have their voting rights restored.
As ballot measure sponsors prepare to turn in their signatures Friday, perhaps only one of proposals will likely qualify for the November election, with one still up in the air. A campaign finance measure is expected to qualify, but proposals to legalize marijuana for adults and to let a person accused of a crime to argue the merits of the law to the jury won’t make the ballot, backers said. It was unclear Thursday whether a so-called “personhood” measure, which would essentially ban abortion, will qualify. Backers were confident Thursday they had enough signatures to qualify Initiative 166. It is a policy statement saying that corporations aren’t human beings with constitutional rights and that money isn’t speech. It is a nonbinding measure telling Montana’s congressional delegation to support a federal constitutional amendment to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case that removed restrictions on political speech for corporations and unions.
Details of proposed constitutional amendments are rarely included in the ballot question voters see and the photo ID amendment should be no exception to that rule, lawyers for the Legislature have told the Minnesota Supreme Court. In defending a ballot question asking if voters should be required to show a photo ID, lawyers for the House and Senate said in a brief filed this week that the Legislature “adhered to long-standing tradition by generally describing the proposed amendment” rather than listing every detail. “There is no requirement that the Minnesota Legislature provides voters with a ‘Cliffs Notes’ summary of the proposed amendment in the ballot questions,” the lawyers wrote in their brief. “Indeed, of the 213 proposed ballot questions in Minnesota’s history, at least 42 of the questions have contained either no suggestion as to the nature of the amendment, or such limited detail that one would not know what changes the proposed amendment would make by simply viewing the ballot question,” argued the lawyers, Robert Weinstine, Thomas Boyd and Kristopher Lee.
Minnesota: Secretary of State asks for Supreme Court decision on voter ID by Aug. 27 | StarTribune.com
The state officials charged with preparing ballots for the Nov. 6 general election need to know whether the proposed photo ID amendment will be on the ballot, and in what form. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, in response to a query from the state Supreme Court, told Chief Justice Lorie Gildea that the state needs a final decision in the photo ID case by Aug 27. He added that it “would be ideal” to have the ruling by Aug. 21. The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the language of the proposed photo ID constitutional amendment, which is scheduled to go to voters for a decision in November. The League of Women Voters argues that the ballot question voters will see is misleading and does not fully describe the changes proposed for the constitution. Amendment supporters say the language is a fair description, and that the Legislature has wide latitude to write such ballot questions.
The Supreme Court’s Monday ruling to strike Montana’s ban on corporate campaign spending opens a new chapter in the political money wars, fueling an improbable but increasingly vocal movement to amend the Constitution. “This Supreme Court ruling could be a watershed in terms of the court aligning itself with the interests of big corporations,” said Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state Senator and law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law. “And the constitutional amendment strategy will be a way to plant the flag and rally people for a different vision of the Constitution and the country.” More than a dozen Members of Congress have proposed various constitutional amendments in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to deregulate corporate and union political spending. Some declare that corporations are not people; others empower Congress and the states to restrict campaign spending and contributions.
Voting Blogs: The constitutionality of the national popular vote: refuting challenges based on Article II, Section One | State of Elections
The National Popular Vote (NPV) plan guarantees election of the presidential candidate who earns the greatest number of votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. NPV does not dispense with the Electoral College, and is not a constitutional amendment. Rather, the plan is based on two clear powers given to the states under the Constitution: the power under Article 2 Section 1 to choose how to allocate its presidential electors, and the power under Article 1 Section 10 to enter into interstate compacts. States in early U.S. history often exercised the power to change rules for allocating electoral votes. While today, 48 states and the District of Columbia award their electoral votes to the winner of that state’s popular vote, the founders did not originally contemplate this type of system, as James Madison explained in 1823.
In the age of eight-figure checks to super PACs, is it time for a constitutional amendment that could end this dangerous farce? The notion of fiddling with the First Amendment should make anyone nervous — especially anyone who has spent a career benefiting from it. Then again, so should Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million check to Mitt Romney’s super PAC. A system that lets one individual pump so much money into supporting a favored candidate threatens to substitute oligarchy for democracy. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe has long opposed such tinkering. But writing last week for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, since introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures. Tribe told me he changed his mind because “there’s no serious prospect” that a majority of the Supreme Court “will see the light in our lifetimes.” Meanwhile, he said, the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.”
When we buy a product, we try to make certain we are getting what we want. We like to think of ourselves as smart shoppers. We owe no less diligence when it comes to voting on a constitutional amendment — particularly one that dramatically changes the way we vote. The voting right is the crux of a democracy. Countless Americans gave their lives in order that we may have this remarkable gift. We in Minnesota lead the nation in voter turnout, and our elections are the most honest. We have recently gone through two very close elections and recounts without a single case of fraud. There is a reason why — our insistence that election laws be designed in a bipartisan fashion. That is key. No party should have an election advantage. Unfortunately, the voter ID constitutional amendment was passed by the Legislature on a strict party-line vote. Not one Democrat in either the House or the Senate voted for it. Not one.
California: Same-day voter registration bill moves forward in California Legislature | Ventura County Star
Election seasons come and go, and with them public attention to the political process waxes and wanes. “The really heartbreaking fact of the matter is that a lot of the excitement kicks in about two weeks before Election Day. But by then it’s too late, and a lot of people are left sitting on the sidelines,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “If we can engage people when they’re excited, we have an opportunity to create a lifelong voter.” The Legislature on Tuesday moved closer toward embracing one way to help Californians seize that moment by allowing voter registration to take place through Election Day — an approach that has sparked sharp partisan divisions in the past. On a party-line vote, with majority Democrats in support, the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee approved a bill to allow same-day voter registration as soon as a new statewide computerized database is operational. The system will let elections officials check the status of all voters statewide.
Minnesota: St. Paul files brief in suit challenging Minnesota Voter ID amendment, wants measure kept off ballot | TwinCities.com
St. Paul has challenged the legality of the constitutional amendment requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls. In a so-called “friend of the court” amicus brief filed to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday, June 18, the city questions the accuracy of the language voters will read if the amendment reaches ballots. It also says Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the bill in April should force the Republican-led Legislature to rewrite the question and the amendment’s title. “The so-called ‘photo ID’ question is not authorized by law and should not be placed on the ballot,” St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing said in a statement. “The Minnesota Supreme Court should order that this bill be sent back to the Legislature for a veto override or further legislative clarification.” The brief, which is for interested groups other than the litigants, is for a lawsuit to keep the proposed amendment off the November ballot. The Supreme Court plans to hear arguments July 17 and expects to rule in time for the ballots to be ready on Nov. 6.
One of the most common criticisms of plans to modify or eliminate the Electoral College is that to do so would be to deviate from the wisdom of the Founders of the American political system. But the “Father of the Constitution” himself, James Madison, was never in favor of our current system for electing the president, one in which nearly all states award their electoral votes to the statewide popular vote winner. He ultimately backed a constitutional amendment to prohibit this practice. As historian Garry Wills wrote of our fourth president, “as a framer and defender of the Constitution he had no peer.” Yet, when he helped create the Constitution and when he defended it years after his presidency, Madison repeatedly argued for alternatives to the winner-take-all method of choosing a state’s presidential electors. Like other leaders of that time, he looked at the world with clear eyes and learned from experience, unafraid to support change when that change made sense.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a DFLer who has campaigned against the photo ID requirement for voting passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, said Thursday he will not defend the language of the proposed constitutional amendment in a court challenge that names him as the defendant. Ritchie’s decision, announced in a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, followed a vote by Republican legislative leaders earlier in the day to hire their own attorney to fight a lawsuit that seeks to derail the amendment before it reaches voters in November. The day’s rapid-fire events escalated what has become a high-stakes summertime preliminary to the full-fledged political campaign over the photo ID plan and related election law changes.
Minnesota: Legislature can intervene in Voter ID lawsuit; Ritchie says he won’t defend proposal | TwinCities.com
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.”
Editorials: The Missing Right To Vote – What we’d get from amending the Constitution to guarantee it | Heather Gerken/Slate
The Constitution does not guarantee Americans the right to vote. That always comes as a surprise to non-lawyers. But you will search the Constitution in vain for any such guarantee, as the Supreme Court cheerily reminded us in Bush v. Gore. What the Constitution contains is a series of “thou shalt nots.” Thou shalt not deny the right to vote on account of race or sex. Thou shalt not impose poll taxes. Thou shalt not prevent 18-year-olds from voting. It is difficult to develop a robust case law when you only know what you can’t do. Some think that a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote would instantly produce any number of progressive goodies, like universal registration or a healthy campaign finance system or the end of partisan gerrymandering. Don’t believe it. If an amendment enshrining the right to vote looks anything like its cognates in the Bill of Rights, it will be thinly described, maddeningly vague, and pushed forward by self-interested politicians who benefit from the current system. It’s unlikely to be enough to persuade judges to mandate large-scale reform. Judges are conservative creatures (at least in the Burkean sense). They are typically loath to upend a system based on a vague textual guarantee. And a vague textual guarantee is as good as it’s likely to get. As Larry Tribe’s post makes clear, it is a challenge to draft an amendment just to overturn a single case, let alone to detail what a right to vote should involve. Even if we were to add as broad-gauged a right as I suggest below, the courts will inevitably create reasonable exceptions and interpretations, just as it has done for the First Amendment.
The Minnesota Supreme Court will decide next month whether or not the proposed voter photo ID constitutional amendment stays on the ballot. At issue is whether the question, as worded on the ballot, omits important information voters need to know before voting it up or down. That wording is simple enough, to wit: “Shall the constitution be amended to require all voters to present photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters?” Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the former Secretary of State who was chief author of the voter ID amendment in the Minnesota House, defends the wording. “This really changes the system from an after-the-fact check-you-out, to a before-you-cast-your-ballot let’s verify,” Rep. Kiffmeyer said. “This is a very modest one section, and the core of the whole constitutional change is requiring photo ID.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court plans to move quickly in determining whether to change or quash a constitutional amendment on voter ID before it appears on the November ballot. The court has ordered oral arguments for July 17, an expedited schedule that would allow it to order changes to the ballot question before the November election. Opponents have asked the court to strike the ballot question, which would require voters to obtain government-approved photo identification before voting. They say that as worded, the amendment gives short shrift to broader changes the amendment would make. In its scheduling order, the high court has also asked the state for a deadline by which a decision is needed “in order to modify the ballot, if necessary, before the November” election.
Many Minnesotans have been deciding whether they are for or against the Voter ID amendment when they head to the polls in November — but a new lawsuit over the language in the amendment may take the question off the ballot. Several local organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters Minnesota — came forward on Wednesday with a lawsuit that says the language is misleading and inaccurate. They hope the Minnesota Supreme Court will intercede. The exact wording reads as follows: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”
A dramatic protest from a group of Minnesota seniors Wednesday: They cut up their AARP cards, upset because AARP is opposing the Voter ID amendment on the ballot this fall. Minnesota seniors make up the largest single voting block on Election Day. Polling data seems to show a majority of Minnesotans support the idea of showing ID when they vote. But AARP, the state’s largest senior advocacy group, says the amendment could stop thousands of the elderly from voting. So, in a show of protest and defiance, conservative seniors cut up their AARP cards. They are calling the state’s biggest advocate for the elderly out of touch with its members, whom they say support Voter ID.
A state constitutional amendment that would clear the way for a photo identification requirement at Missouri polls will not appear on this year’s ballot, the secretary of state’s office said. The Republican-led Missouri Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment last year that would have allowed separate legislation to require voters to show government-issued photo identification and to permit an advanced voting period. Lawmakers wrote their own ballot language, but Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce struck down the summary this spring after concluding the statement was insufficient. Joyce in her ruling allowed lawmakers to revise the ballot summary, but the Legislature adjourned last week without doing so. State elections officials told the Jefferson City News Tribune that means the proposal will not appear on the ballot.
The fate of Minnesota’s Voter ID constitutional amendment hinges on the November elections in more ways than one — and it could be procedurally defeated even if approved at the polls, according to some experts. Democrats may get a final chance to soften the blow they say the measure would cause voters if it truly became part of the Minnesota Constitution. Republicans will have to watch the gamble they took in deciding to bypass the governor and to leave the specifics of a Photo ID system to the next Legislature. The amendment, which polls show highly favored by the public, would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Despite highly publicized campaigns against Voter ID, many opponents seem resigned to the likelihood that it will pass. But even if it does, it would be up to the next Legislature to fill in the statutory blanks of how the system would work, since the wording of the bite-size amendment speaks only in generalities.
As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” Unfortunately, Kent Kaiser’s piece (“Photo ID: An end to ‘same-day’ registration in Minnesota? Not true,” April 17) attempts to distort what is actually lurking in the voter ID constitutional amendment. Under current Minnesota law, this proposed constitutional amendment to change Minnesota’s election system would force every person who registers in the polling place on Election Day to submit a provisional ballot; that is, they would not be allowed to cast a real ballot. This fundamental change is required because the amendment says that “All voters must be subject to substantially equivalent eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.” While most people understandably won’t grasp the implications of this statement when they read the ballot question, an election official understands that immediate eligibility verification is not possible. Practically speaking, for voters who need to update their voting address on Election Day and others doing same-day registration, election judges would have to check multiple databases to verify their name, address, date of birth with the state’s department of public safety, department of health, national death registry and the federal social security office.
A Mississippi voter ID bill is headed to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said he supports it as a way to protect the integrity of elections. The final version of House Bill 921 passed the Republican-controlled House 79-39 Thursday, with strong opposition from black representatives. It would require voters to show a driver’s license or other form of photo identification before casting a ballot. The bill is intended to enact a state constitutional amendment that 62 percent of Mississippi voters adopted in last November’s general election. Bryant has pledged to sign the bill into law. However, there’s no guarantee that the ID requirement will ever take effect.
A Mississippi voter ID bill is headed to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said he supports it as a way to protect the integrity of elections. The final version of the bill passed the Republican controlled House 79-39 Thursday, with strong opposition from black representatives. It would require voters to show a driver’s license or other form of photo identification before casting a ballot. The bill is intended to enact a state constitutional amendment that 62 percent of Mississippi voters adopted in last November’s general election.
Bryant has pledged to sign the bill into law. However, there’s no guarantee that the ID requirement will ever take effect.
Connecticut: Constitutional Amendment on No Excuse Absentee Ballots Goes To Voters Now | Courant.com
The Senate on Wednesday approved a rare Constitutional amendment that would make it much easier to vote by absentee ballot, requiring no reason or excuse at all. The measure, if passed by voters in a statewide referendum in November 2014, would remove all restrictions on obtaining absentee ballots, which are currently granted under certain circumstances such as being away at college or being disabled. The House has already approved the measure. The Senate voted 21-14 in favor of the amendment on a party-line vote. One Democratic senator, Edith Prague of Columbia, was absent. Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a Milford Democrat who co-chairs the legislative committee that oversees elections, said the move would open up voting for more citizens who arrive home too late to cast a ballot by the time the polls close at 8 p.m. “This is important to commuters,” Slossberg said.