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.
Ritchie said that as the state’s top elections official, 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.” He said he would file no legal defense of the language but will follow the court’s decision, whatever that is.
The announcement upset Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, who accused Ritchie of shirking his duty to stand up for even those legislative decisions he disagrees with. “He’s an elected official representing the state of Minnesota, and insofar as I’m concerned, he’s walking away from his responsibility to defend the actions of the state,” Senjem said. “And I’m disappointed in that.”