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Panel rejects Entenza's voter ID claim in state auditor race

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota legislature, Democrats Updated: July 24, 2014 - 6:11 PM

A state Office of Administrative Hearings panel rejected claims by Matt Entenza that Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto lied when she said she had not voted for legislation requiring voter identification.

In an 11-page order issued Thursday, the three-judge panel rejected the official campaign complaint filed by Entenza, who is challenging Otto in a DFL primary Aug. 12. Entenza, a former House minority leader, filed for the office in the last moments before deadline, surprising Otto, a former House colleague, and many DFLers.

Entenza filed the complaint in June based on a Facebook comment Otto posted, after she was asked if she voted for Voter ID as a state legislator. Otto responded to the post saying "No, Lauren. It was not around in 2003. No one can find a bill on the issue when I served."

Otto wrote that no one could find a 2003 voter ID bill that she had opposed, as Entenza had claimed.

"Matt will say anything," she said in the post.

According to the ruling, two bills proposing the requirement of identification at the polls were presented on the House floor during the 2003 legislative session. Then-state Rep. Keith Ellison at the time presented an amendment removing the voter identification language from the legislation, which Otto voted against. Of the two bills, Otto voted against one that would require voter identification and in favor of another requring voter ID. However, the Voter ID language was stripped from the language in conference committee and Otto voted in favor of the revised version.

Otto said that the statement on her Facebook page was in reference to the highly- controversial proposed Voter ID amendment to the state constition defeated by voters in 2012, not the 2003 bills, which provided an exception for individuals without identification. Otto also maintained that she did not recall "Voter ID" being an issue when she served in the Legislature, and that her Facebook page is not "campaign material."

In dismissing the case, the panel concluded that "there are no disputed facts in this matter--only differing interpretations of the meaning of the phrase "voter ID," which is not sufficient for Entenza to bring a case.

"Ms. Otto's quick response to the Facebook post tends to support the conclusion that she subjectively understood her response to be truthful," the panel wrote.

Entenza campaign manager Dave Colling, who brought the complaint on the candidate's behalf, said Thursday that Otto's record on voter ID remains an issue for the campaign.

"Even though the case was dismissed it didn't go as far as to say she did not vote for voter ID," Colling said. "At the end of the day it doesn't change the fact that she voted for voter ID in the Legislature twice."

In a statement issued by the DFL, Otto's attorney, Charlie Nauen, called the ruling "a complete victory for Rebecca Otto over Matt Entenza's misleading claims and distortion of the facts."

"I have never voted for Voter ID," Otto said in the statement. "In fact, I campaigned against it."

"Rebecca Otto had it right," DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said. "Matt Entenza will say anything to get himself elected."

Read the ruling here:

Entenza order

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