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Supporters of proposed constitutional amendments win both Supreme Court cases

Posted by: Jim Ragsdale Updated: August 27, 2012 - 5:19 PM

The Republican-controlled Legislature won a pair of battles over proposed constitutional amendments before the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday.

In a pair of 4-2 decisions, the court ruled:

-- Against a petition from the League of Women Voters and other groups that the ballot language of the photo ID amendment was so unfair that the amendment should be taken from the ballot.

-- In favor of petitions from the Legislature that their proposed titles for both the ID and marriage amendments should be used on the ballot, and not titles written by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

For the photo ID amendment, the Republican-controlled Legislature wrote this ballot question:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

The League lawsuit claimed that the amendment does much more, requiring a “government-issued” ID, setting up a system of two-step provisional voting for those without IDs, and changing the way voters’ eligibility and identity are verified. The League sought to remove the issue from the ballot, but lawyers for the legislature said the language was in line with other proposed amendments, and was not meant to be a substitute for the actual amendment, which voters could read on their own.

“The proper role for the judiciary, however, is not to second-guess the wisdom of policy decisions that the constitution commits to one of the political branches,” the court wrote in ruling against the League's petition that the ID ballot question was unfair.

In the other cases, the Legislature won  the battle over who gets to write the titles of proposed amendments to the Minnesota Constitution. The sided with the Legislature in its battle with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie over the amendment titles that will appear on the ballot.

"The Secretary of State exceeded his authority ... when he provided titles different from those passed by the Legislature," the court ruled.

The decision means the Legislature's original titles go on the ballot.

Legislators had called the Photo ID amendment: “Photo Identification Required for Voting.” Ritchie, following a state law that says the Secretary of State writes ballot titles, substituted this language: “Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots.”
For marriage, legislators called the amendment: “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.” Ritchie’s title reads: “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.”
 
   

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