Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, has covered state government and politics for more than 30 years.

Judge interrupts voter ID spin

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: August 17, 2012 - 5:20 PM

For political spinmeisters, timing can be tricky. You never know when something like a federal judge's ruling might disrupt your spin cycle.

That apparently happened Friday to the folks at Protect My Vote, the group promoting the amendment that would allow only people bearing government-issued photo identification cards to vote. They issued an email at the crack of dawn to journalists upbraiding DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for saying that if adopted, their amendment would impede Election Day voter registration for many Minnesotans.

"No legislators have stated any intent to eliminate Election Day registration," said Dan McGrath, Protect My Vote's chair and the executive director of the conservative advocacy group Minnesota Majority. 

A few hours later, Federal District Judge Donovan Frank threw out a lawsuit aimed at stopping Election Day registration as it has been practiced in Minnesota since 1974. It sought to prevent the counting of ballots of same-day registrants "until the state and counties confirm those persons' entitlement to vote." The lawsuit was filed by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, which is also promoting the ID amendment.

Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was GOP state Rep. Sondra Erickson of Princeton. That would make her a legislator who intends to at least alter, if not stop, Election Day registration.  

For 38 years, same-day registration has been a convenience for Minnesota voters and a boon to the state's democracy. It's widely credited for putting Minnesota consistently at the top among the states in election participation. Frank's ruling appears to preserve the practice, at least for 2012. But the amendment on the ballot this year contains features that appear to deny same-day registrants a regular ballot and allow them to vote only by provisional ballot instead. In other states that use provisional ballots, about 30 percent typically go uncounted in each election. 

That's the reason that despite the Protect My Vote criticism, Ritchie said again Friday that the constitutional amendment "would eliminate same-day registration as we know it." What's more, Minnesota Voters Alliance is talking about an appeal of Frank's decision. The threat continues.

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