While the language of the proposed photo ID constitutional amendment is under review by the Minnesota Supreme Court, the justices have also been asked to take a hard look at the title.
Bill sponsors, Republican legislators and the Minnesota Majority, which lobbied for the photo ID change, petitioned the Supreme Court Thursday to order Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to use the Legislature's title of the proposed amendment on the ballot -- not the one Ritchie wrote.
"The Secretary of State has no legal authority to meddle in the process of presenting a constitutional amendment to the voters,'' said a statement from Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, sponsor of the bill.
When the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the proposed constitutional amendment to be submitted to voters, it chose the title: "Photo Identification Required for Voting."
Ritchie, with approval from Attorney General Lori Swanson, changed the title to "Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; provisional ballots."
Hutchinson's statement said Ritchie and Swanson, both DFLers, "colluded to usurp the Legislature's legal authority and to confound the voters."
The Court is already hearing a separate challenge to the language of the proposed photo ID amendment, and the way it differs from the ballot question voters will see. Opponents of photo ID say the ballot language is misleading and should be taken off the November ballot.
Thursday's petition is similar to one filed in connection with the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. In that case, also, amendment supporters are challenging the title Ritchie has assigned to the ballot question.
In the ID petition, lawyers for the legislative sponsors argued that submitting questions to voters is a Legislative prerogative, and the executive branch -- of which Ritchie is a part -- has little role in it. The petition scoffed at the idea that Gov. Mark Dayton, in symbolically "vetoing" the proposed amendment, may have in fact vetoed the title, allowing Ritchie to write his own.
A governor has no authority under the Minnesota Constitution to veto a proposed amendment passed by the Legislature. But photo ID foes have argued that he could and did veto the amendment's title, which is a separate section of the bill.
In addition to accusing Ritchie of overstepping his constitutional bounds, the legislators' petition says the language he chose for the title is faulty.
"The core purpose and effect of the underlying Voter ID Amendment is to require voters to present photo identification," the petition states, but Ritchie's title is "completely void" of any reference to photo ID. The result could be to confuse voters, photo ID supporters said in their petition.
"Rather than cast a 'yes' vote on an amendment they do not understand, some voters may simply leave their ballot blank, which is counted the same as a 'no' vote," the petition states.
A spokeswoman for Ritchie said that he relied on the section of state law that says "the secretary of state shall provide an appropriate title for each question" and that the title "shall be approved by the attorney general." She would not comment further.