State senators are accusing Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie of playing politics with the voter ID amendment on November's ballot.
Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and retiring Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, filed a complaint Thursday with the Office of Administrative Hearings. The lengthy document accuses Ritchie of using taxpayer funds to try to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment and of making biased, untrue claims about how the amendment – which would require a photo ID to vote – could affect Minnesotans.
“Secretary of State Ritchie once wrote that he has a duty ‘not to take a side’ on ballot questions proposed by the Legislature,” Parry told reporters at a morning press conference. “We believe he has taken a side in opposition and continues to be a vocal opponent of the amendment, and in doing so, using his office, his staff and taxpayer money to do so.”
Among other things, the senators say Ritchie used the resources of his office to oppose the amendment -- including staff time and taxpayer-funded travel.
Ritchie declined to comment on pending litigation. In a statement, he said only: “I continue to work closely with local elections officials to ensure that the 2012 General Election is efficient and accurate."
Newman, who sponsored the voter ID legislation, and Parry, who held a hearing on Ritchie's activities earlier this year that Ritchie declined to attend, say they are filing the complaint on their own, not acting on behalf of the Senate or the Republican caucus. They did, however, issue their press release on Senate stationery and use Senate staff, computers and printers for the event. They refused to say who was funding their complaint, saying it was between them and their attorney.
Republicans have been unhappy with Ritchie's vocal opposition to voter ID -- which he says could cost millions, end same-day registration and prevent troops stationed overseas from voting absentee. Supporters of the amendment say none of those things are true. In point of fact, no one knows how the amendment would be implemented until the next legislature hammers out the details.
Voter ID supporters have talked about trying to have Ritchie recalled, and Newman and Parry say the Office of Administrative Hearings complaint is just the first of four possible challenges they could file on topics ranging from campaign finance violations to misuse of state funds to possible violations of the Hatch Act.
You can read the full complaint below.