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Long-anticipated lawsuit filed opposing Photo ID constitutional amendment

An alliance of groups filed a petition Wednesday with the Minnesota Supreme Court to have the question taken off the November ballot.

An alliance of groups opposed to the proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment filed a petition Wednesday with the Minnesota Supreme Court to have the question taken off the November ballot.

The long-awaited lawsuit — which the groups first signaled in April that they would file — argues that the question should be dropped because it doesn’t adequately describe the effects of the actual amendment.

 If the court declines to remove the question, it could rewrite the amendment’s language to address specific concerns.

The groups bringing the lawsuit include the ACLU of Minnesota, Common Cause Minnesota, the League of Women Voters and Jewish Community Action. They say the question doesn’t properly inform voters of the amendment’s consequences.

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Bill Pentelovitch, an attorney for the groups, said the question [JN1] doesn’t notify voters that the amendment would implement a bulky provisional balloting system, doesn’t specify that a government-issued ID is required to vote and doesn’t note that that the measure could end Election Day registration.

“We are focused on holding elected officials accountable,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. “With this ballot question, legislators are not being honest with Minnesotans about how this amendment will change the constitution.”

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed Photo ID legislation in the 2011 session, which prompted Republican lawmakers to bypass his desk and send the issue directly to voters. If this lawsuit fails and the amendment passes, opponents of the measure also could bring litigation to define exactly how the measure would be implemented.

Public polling shows requiring a photo ID to vote is popular in Minnesota but haven’t dealt with some of the other implications of the proposed amendment.

The measure’s public popularity has been the rallying cry for advocates of the measure, who say that showing an ID at the polls is a common-sense solution to combat voter fraud.

“The opponents have been talking about a lawsuit from nearly the time that the Voter ID bill was introduced in the legislature,” Jeff Davis, president of the pro-Photo ID Minnesota Majority, said in a statement.  “What are these folks so afraid that they feel the need to file a lawsuit trying to block Minnesotans from voting on this issue?”

But opponents say the amendment could disenfranchise such at-risk voters as students, minorities, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. They argue that voter fraud is almost nonexistent in the United States.

“At the end of the day, you can claim what you want to claim, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts,” ACLU of Minnesota Executive Director Chuck Samuelson said.

Minnesota’s secretary of state and the attorney general were also named in the lawsuit.

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Mark Ritchie, the secretary of state, testified against the amendment as it worked its way through the Legislature. Opponents of the lawsuit allege that Ritchie legally defending the amendment is like “the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Minnesota Majority and the Legislature could intervene in the case, which the groups hope will be concluded by August.