American politics is in trouble. A tsunami of unaccountable, untraceable political money is overwhelming the Republican race for the presidential nomination and threatens to do the same to the fall election. For many people, especially progressives, the culprit is easy to name: the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which swept away any limits on election-advocacy ads by corporations, unions, and “independent” political-action committees (PACs) and issue groups. Many progressives believe that Citizens United “made corporations people” and that a constitutional amendment restricting “corporate personhood” will cure this political ill. Citizens United is a bad decision. This obvious fact may even be dawning on the Court’s conservative majority, which is taking a surprisingly leisurely look at American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, in which the Montana Supreme Court directly challenged Citizens United, in essence telling the justices that they didn’t understand the first thing about politics. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, dissenters in Citizens United, have publicly stated that American Tradition may offer an opening to limit or even overturn the malign precedent.
Minnesota: Secretary of State Ritchie uses election official role to move headfirst into voter ID battle | StarTribune.com
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.”
The political battle is already gearing up over Minnesota’s proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment, which was approved last week by the Legislature. At least three Ballot Question Committees have filed with the state board that tracks political organizations, and more groups are poised for the fight. Some groups are focusing on legal issues, preparing litigation opposing the amendment, which would require voters to show an ID and affect same-day registration and absentee balloting procedures. Others will focus on the political campaign, with both proponents and opponents trying to persuade voters about the Republican-backed initiative that will be on the November general- election ballot.
Even as Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature were advancing a voter ID constitutional amendment on to the November ballot last week, DFLers were predicting court challenges. In 2011 Republicans passed a statutory photo ID requirement in both chambers, but their bill was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. This year the GOP-controlled House and Senate regrouped to pass the measure as a ballot question shortly before the Easter/Passover recess. The constitutional route, if successful, carries the twin benefits of bypassing Dayton and codifying the policy in a way that’s very difficult to reverse. Legal challenges are nothing new in states that have advanced voter ID proposals. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a photo ID law in Indiana. In other states — most recently, Wisconsin and Missouri — voter ID has stumbled in the courts for different reasons.
The Missouri House approved a new ballot summary Wednesday for a proposed constitutional amendment that would clear the way for a requirement that voters show photo identification. The move marked the second attempt by House members to write the summary, which would appear before voters as they decide on the voter ID proposal. The measure calling for the amendment cleared the Legislature last year, and lawmakers are working to put it on the ballot this year. The proposal would amend the Missouri Constitution to allow a state law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls and to permit an advanced voting period. Last month, Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce rejected the ballot summary that lawmakers approved for the proposal, calling it insufficient. But Joyce ruled that lawmakers could revise the ballot summary. House members approved the revised summary 102-55, and it now goes to the state Senate. Some have questioned whether the Legislature can use a resolution to change the ballot summary for a proposal that passed the Legislature in the preceding year.
It was a ceremonial gesture only, but this morning Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the Voter ID bill approved last week by the Republican-led Legislature. The bill calls for a statewide vote in November on a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, will require all voters to show state-approved photo IDs. But the measure will be on the November ballot anyway. The governor’s veto can’t keep amendments passed by the Legislature off the ballot, which is why the Republican majority went that route.
Only days after the Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment that will ask voters this November to require that Minnesotans show photo identification at the polls, groups that oppose the measure vowed to fight it in court. “This question is deceptive and misleading to voters and the court should strike it down and reject it,” Mike Dean, executive director of Minnesota Common Cause, said Monday. Dean said his group and the Minnesota chapter of the America Civil Liberties Union are preparing a lawsuit to stop the amendment from getting on the ballot.
Minnesota: Debate ramps up over potential effects of voter ID measure on students | The Minnesota Daily
With the state Legislature’s recent passage of the voter ID constitutional amendment, the future voting process for college students rests on many factors. And while both sides agree it’s too early to tell what the implications of the law would be if it passes on the November ballot, some worry about its affect on students. If the majority of Minnesota voters vote to mandate valid photo identification at the polls, details of how the amendment will work will be left up to the next Legislature. How it will work will also be dependent upon the makeup of the new Legislature — all 201 state legislators are up for re-election in November. On Wednesday, the Senate re-passed the bill to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. All DFLers voted against the amendment, and all but one Republican voted in favor. Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents the University of Minnesota’s district, said she worries about the potential impact on students and same-day registration. Although proponents of the amendment say that same-day registration will remain, Dziedzic said it’s unclear how it will work for students and may make voting more of a hassle.
Wisconsin: Not what they meant democracy to look like – original supporters of recall law expected it would be used rarely | JSOnline
As armies of union sympathizers paraded around the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011, they often chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” Yet when Democrats and organized labor undertook an effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker for virtually eliminating most public employees’ ability to collectively bargain, it looked nothing like what democracy had ever looked like or was intended to. In 1926, voters approved a change to the Wisconsin Constitution that provided for the recall of state officials if a petitioner could gather 25% of the signatures cast in the previous gubernatorial election for the relevant district. The change was one of a number of progressive initiatives intended to reduce the effect of money in politics and lessen the influence of special interests. In Wisconsin’s history, only two state elected officials had been successfully recalled before 2011. Nationally, only two governors have ever been recalled from office. Yet in 2012, Wisconsin will be seeing its 15th recall election in the span of one year.
Minnesota’s historic battle over photo ID and the future of the state’s voting system moved from the Capitol to the voters themselves on Wednesday. The House and Senate, with Republicans supplying all the “yes” votes, gave final approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo ID, create a new system of “provisional” balloting and end election day “vouching” for voters without proof of residence. It passed the House on a 72-57 vote shortly after midnight and was approved by the Senate Wednesday afternoon on a 35-29 vote. The decision puts Minnesota squarely in the center of a national debate over election security vs. ballot access. Five states have strict photo ID requirements in law. Wisconsin and several other states are battling the issue in court or in their legislatures. Minnesota now joins Mississippi and Missouri as states that have sought to impose the changes via constitutional amendments. Minnesota’s amendment will likely face court challenges of its own before it goes to voters.
It’s nearly certain that Minnesotans will decide this November whether they want to change the state’s Constitution to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. The Legislature is nearing final approval of the proposed voter ID amendment, which would place the question on the November ballot. What’s less certain is how a voter ID law would play out in future elections in Minnesota. By design, the wording of the constitutional amendment is sparse on details; if approved by the voters, lawmakers wouldn’t lay out exactly how the new system would work until the 2013 legislative session. In the meantime, election officials, voters and advocates on both sides of the issue are scratching their heads over what the proposed voter ID requirement will mean for Minnesota’s future elections.
A controversial constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo identification at the polls has cleared one of the last hurdles on the way to the fall ballot. An all-Republican conference committee hammered out a compromise version of the House and Senate voter identification proposals and passed it unanimously Monday night, over the vocal protests of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, which described the compromise as “worse” than either of the original plans. Proponents were more pleased with the committee’s work. … The compromise plan now returns to the House and Senate for a final vote. Both chambers had earlier approved slightly different versions of the amendment on straight party-line votes. Gov. Mark Dayton can’t veto a proposed amendment, as he did with a photo identification law passed by legislators last year.
Progressive activists are celebrating another victory today after the Vermont Legislature became the third in the nation late Thursday to pass resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the controversial 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and other groups to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections and gave rise to the now-infamous Super PACs. The resolution passed the Vermont House by a vote of 92-40 with support from five Republicans and despite a filibuster attempt by a Republican state representative. A similar resolution passed the state Senate last week by a wide margin of 26-3. The Hawaii and New Mexico Legislatures have also passed similar resolutions. “The Vermont legislature is the third state legislature to formally call for an amendment,” said Aquene Freechild, an organizer for reform group Public Citizen’s grassroots campaign to overturn Citizens United v. FEC. “I have no doubt it will be among the first to ratify.”
Minnesota’s intense struggle over voting rights and election security is moving into close quarters. The battleground has shifted to the precise wording of a proposed photo ID constitutional amendment to be written by a legislative committee. The two sides read the same language in different ways but agree that the stakes are high for this final revision. What words are chosen, and how they are interpreted, could change the way Minnesotans vote. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie reads the language and sees a bombshell for Minnesota’s elections — an end to the popular system of same-day registration and creation of a parallel bureaucracy of provisional ballots that could delay reporting of election results. Photo ID sponsor Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, sees the text of the Republican-backed bills as flexible enough to allow Minnesota’s current voting system to continue but with improved security.
The Minnesota Legislature is poised to vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment that would replace same-day voter registration with a new election system called provisional voting. Not only would this new system cost local governments tens of millions in new tax dollars, it would delay the reporting of election results while we all waited for 500,000-600,000 provisional ballots to be processed. Since one-third of all provisional ballots nationwide are never counted, this could reduce our overall vote count by up to 200,000, knocking us out of our position as the state with the highest voter turnout in the nation. Given that over half-million Minnesotans normally use same-day registration in big election years, this kind of radical change should not be taken lightly.
A Cole County judge on Thursday struck down a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would have required voters to show photo identification at the polls. Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce ruled that the summary that would have appeared on the ballot was “insufficient and unfair” and pointed to two reasons for her ruling. First, the ballot summary includes the phrase “Voter Protection Act,” even though the phrase never actually appears in the constitutional amendment. Second, the summary stated that the amendment would allow the General Assembly to establish an early voting period, when in fact the amendment would “restrict the time period during which advance voting may occur,” Joyce said. “Because significant changes are required here and policy choices need to be made as to how to reallocate the words in a revised summary statement, the court chooses to vacate the summary statement and to provide the General Assembly an opportunity to revise it,” Joyce’s ruling said.
A Missouri judge struck down the wording of a Republican-backed ballot measure that would clear the way for a state voter ID requirement, finding it lacking and leaving it to lawmakers to revise. Several legislators wasted no time getting started, saying Thursday they hoped to put the issue to voters this year. The Republican-led Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment last year that would allow separate legislation to require a photo ID and to establish an early voting period. Lawmakers wrote their own ballot summary, but Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce struck the summary down earlier this week after concluding the statement was unfair and insufficient. House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller already has filed a new version and said Thursday that he expected lawmakers to move quickly on it. He said he thinks a photo ID requirement would be popular with voters.
Missouri: Trial judge strikes down ballot summary for proposed Missouri voter ID constitutional amendment | The Republic
A trial judge has struck down the ballot summary for a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would have cleared the way for requiring voters to show photo identification. Missouri lawmakers developed the summary when they approved the measure. But Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce struck down the ballot summary and concluded that it is insufficient and unfair. In a ruling signed earlier this week, Joyce left it to the Legislature to revise.
The state House Monday rejected the Senate’s version of a measure that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, ensuring the two bodies will hash out their differences in conference committee. A provision introduced by GOP Sen. John Howe on Friday – when the Senate passed the Voter ID constitutional amendment along near party lines – is likely at the heart of the disagreement between the two bodies. Both passed the measure last week. Howe’s provision broadened the amendment’s language to include “equivalent” verification measures to ensure that future technologies wouldn’t be locked out of the state Constitution. It passed the Senate with wide support (63- 3), including backing from Sen. Scott Newman, the bill’s chief sponsor there, who said he “philosophically” agrees with it.
The road to overturning Citizen’s United by constitutional amendment is a long one—it requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and then ratification by thirty-eight state legislatures. The DISCLOSE Act was re-introduced in the Senate this month but is almost certain to remain stuck in the mud. Meanwhile, corporations are dumping millions into the coffers of outside groups for the fall elections. Some campaign reformers have thus turned their attention to the Securities and Exchange Commission, urging it to pass a rule that all publicly traded companies must disclose political spending to shareholders—this would reveal exactly what business interests are trying to influence the election, and in the eyes of most experts, lead to dramatically reduced corporate electioneering.
Today is the 200th Anniversary of the first Gerrymander. The cartoon-map first appeared in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812 when Jeffersonian Republicans forced a bill through the Massachusetts legislature rearranging district lines to assure them an advantage in the upcoming senatorial elections. Although Governor Elbridge Gerry had only reluctantly signed the law, a Federalist editor is said to have exclaimed upon seeing the new district lines, “Salamander! Call it a Gerrymander.” So here we are in 2012. As noted by Professor Justin Levitt of Loyola School of Law in California, “every 10 years, redistricting litigation joins death and taxes as one of life’s certainties.” Although redistricting is nearly complete in almost every state, there is no shortage of controversy. Professor Levitt notes 113 cases impacting federal or statewide redistricting have been filed so far this cycle, in 31 different states — with 26 new cases in November and December alone.
With Minnesota legislators appearing nearly certain to send a photo ID constitutional amendment to voters, some political groups are already vowing to take legal action to prevent it from even reaching the November ballot. The measure was headed for a likely Senate floor vote Friday night, with a friendly Republican majority, after earlier passing the House. Mike Dean, executive director of the liberal group Common Cause of Minnesota, said his organization has been working with state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters to coordinate efforts on a lawsuit that goes after the ballot question’s wording. “The language being provided to voters is extremely confusing and it’s unclear what it really means,” Dean said.
Minnesota voters are steps away from seeing a photo identification constitutional amendment on the ballot. The full Senate passed the amendment Friday in a 36-30 vote after six hours of debate. The House passed the amendment Tuesday. The vote fell mostly along party lines. Every Republican except Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona voted for the amendment. Every Democrat voted against it. The measure centers around whether voters need to prove who they are when they cast a ballot. Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said he fears some people are voting illegally and that the proposed constitutional amendment would stop it. “I think we do have voter fraud in the United States and I think we have voter fraud in Minnesota,” said Newman. “It is my belief that when someone votes who should not be voting, it has the effect of neutralizing or canceling the vote of someone who has voted legally.”
The Minnesota Senate on Friday night approved a proposed constitutional requirement that all voters show a photo ID at the polling place, ending a week of in which both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature endorsed the historic and partisan change in state voting law. The Senate approved the measure 36 to 30 after a lengthy and emotional debate Friday evening. One Republican, Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona, joined the DFLers in voting no; all the yes votes can from Republicans. The version approved by the Senate was slightly different from one the House passed earlier this week. It includes a change designed to give future legislators the freedom to use new technology for identification purposes. “I willingly admit there is some burden that will be placed on some of our citizens,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. But, he said, the requirement is needed to prevent fraud and give voters confidence in the system. “On balance, I believe this amendment is the right thing to do,” he said.
The question of whether to require voters to produce photo identifications is in the hands of Minnesota senators. The Senate rules committee Wednesday advanced to the full Senate a bill similar to one the House passed earlier in the day. The Senate is to begin debate on the measure Friday afternoon. If the Republican-controlled Senate agrees with the House, which approved the measure 72-62, Minnesota voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to amend the state Constitution to include the photo ID requirement. The House vote was partisan, with Republicans supporting the proposal. In the Senate committee, Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, asked bill sponsor Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, if he could point out any voter fraud his photo ID bill would have fixed in recent elections. “No, I cannot,” Newman said, adding that he will try to find some examples before the Senate takes up the bill.
The Minnesota Senate is set to vote on a measure that would ask voters to change the state constitution to require people to show photo identification to vote. The Senate Rules Committee approved the measure Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the Minnesota House passed the bill. Republicans say it will improve the state’s election system but Democrats worry that it could disenfranchise thousands of people. The Senate Rules Committee hearing was less contentious than a nine-hour debate that took place Tuesday in the House. But those making the arguments were just as divided over the issue.
The Senate Rules committee on Wednesday approved a bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would require voters show a photo ID at the polls. “There was a long debate about the fact that it’s going from the legislator directly to being an amendment and going before the voters,” Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said. The measure will come up on the Senate floor Friday, said Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. A companion measure was passed 72-62 by the House early Wednesday morning.
Minnesota’s Republican-led legislature on Wednesday advanced plans to bypass Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and let voters decide if the state should adopt a controversial voter photo ID requirement that he rejected last year. The state House early on Wednesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would require photo IDs at the polls and a Senate committee voted on Wednesday afternoon to advance a proposed amendment to the full Senate. The votes, both on party lines, put Minnesota and its closely divided electorate squarely within a national movement by Republican-controlled state legislatures to enact more restrictive voter ID laws. Democrats contend that the laws are aimed at keeping their supporters such as minorities and the elderly from the polls.
In a heated, six-plus hour session, the full Minnesota House of Representatives debated the bill that would put a voter ID amendment to vote on the November ballot. The amendment would require all voters to present a government-issued photo ID at their polling place and would take effect if a majority of citizens voted in favor of the amendment in November. On the November ballot, voters will be asked, “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification on election day and that the state provide free identification to eligible voters?” If voters approve the measure in November, the next Legislature would be required to pass legislation explaining how the state would carry out fulfilling the photo identification requirement.
A Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require Minnesotans show photo identification when they vote has moved closer to a spot on the statewide ballot. Many unanswered questions remain about the looming changes in state election law. A debate by the House Rules Committee today highlighted the deep and sometimes bitter partisan divide over the issue. The rules committee was the last stop for the voter ID bill before a yet-to-be-scheduled House floor vote. Its focus was supposed to be limited to the form and structure of the proposed ballot question, but the discussion quickly expanded to the broader merits of the bill. State Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, urged Republicans to hold off on changing the state constitution. Norton suggested that they instead consider a legislative proposal from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to make use of electronic poll book technology to determine voter eligibility.