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Minnesota Supreme Court grills both sides in photo ID debate

Posted by: Jim Ragsdale under Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: July 17, 2012 - 3:54 PM

Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court took both sides to task Tuesday in oral arguments on a challenge to the state's proposed photo ID constitutional amendment.

The justices questioned lawyers for the League of Women Voters-Minnesota, which wants to throw the issue off the ballot, and the Minnesota Legislature, which is arguing to give Minnesotans a right to vote on the issue.

The court made no immediate decision but is expected to rule by late August so that ballots can be printed in time for the Nov. 6 general election.

Justices hammered away at discrepancies between the ballot question voters will see and the actual amendment language that is to be inserted into the Minnesota constitution. Justices questioned whether this was a case of "bait and switch" or merely the Legislature exercising its constitutional prerogative to write concise ballot-question statements for voters to consider.

Justice Paul Anderson led the charge in questioning both the ballot question and the underlying amendment, and its effect on such matters as election-day registration. "Don't people have a right to vote on something that's not deceptive?" he asked.

Justice David Stras and others asked whether the court shouldn't defer to the legislative branch and keep "hands off political questions."

The justices and the lawyers for both sides admitted that the remedy or "fix" would be difficult if they find the ballot question to be unconstitutional -- whether to keep the issue off the ballot altogether, or to substitute the full amendment language.

After the hearing, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, a sponsor of the photo ID bill, said he was upset that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie changed the title of the amendment as it will appear on the ballot. He said a separate legal action is forthcoming.

"We will be raising it in the form of a suit," Newman said.




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