Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who has long campaigned against the Republican-backed election changes under the GOP’s photo ID proposal, was accused by GOP senators on Friday of crossing the line between running elections and trying to influence them. A Senate committee hearing, led by Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, who is also a candidate for Congress in the 1st Congressional District, focused on Ritchie’s criticism of a photo ID constitutional amendment and his decision to rewrite the title voters will see on the November ballot. Parry, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville; Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Baxter; and Sen.John Carlson, R-Bemidji, led the charge at the State Government Innovation Veterans Committee in criticizing the DFL Secretary of State. Neither Ritchie nor Attorney General Lori Swanson appeared before the hearing. The Republican-controlled Legislature voted this year to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would require in-person voters to show a photo ID, would set up a new system of two-step provisional voting for those without “government-issued” IDs, and would change eligibility and identity verification standards. No DFLers voted for the bill, and the two sides have bitterly contested the effect of the amendment, should it pass.
As expected, supporters of the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment have filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to overturn a new title for their proposal that they say is unauthorized and misleading. The move follows similar action by supporters of the other proposed amendment on this fall’s ballot — related to the definition of marriage — after the title of that measure was also changed by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Amendment proponents in both cases argue Ritchie has no authority to interfere with titles selected by the Legislature for questions it presents to voters and that the titles Ritchie picked tend to discourage support for the measures. Both constitutional amendments — one of which would require voters to show photo ID at the polling place and the other of which would define marriage as an opposite-sex union — were placed on the ballot by the Republican-led Legislature. Both are opposed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.