Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Long-anticipated lawsuit filed opposing Photo ID constitutional amendment

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.

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.

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.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Chuck Samuelson on 05/30/2012 - 05:25 pm.

    Voting petition

    Besides being unprecedented, there’s a separation of powers/constitutional issue, because MN constitution says legislature proposes amendments, & that proposed amendments shall be published with the session laws & submitted to the people. It would be inconsistent with this process for the court. to re-write the question. That’s why the court has such a deferential standard of review- all it can do is say whether legislature complied with Constitution- it can’t do legislature’s job.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/31/2012 - 06:55 am.

    If anybody asks you

    what the ACLU does, tell them they try to shut down democracy. Suing to prevent an election, a decision made by the people, is all you need to know about who the ACLU is.

  3. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/31/2012 - 09:00 am.

    The right wing republicans

    Do not want a democracy Mr. Tester. They want to define who can vote in a blatant attempt to increase their political power. Smells like Germany in the 1930’s.

  4. Submitted by r batnes on 05/31/2012 - 09:05 am.

    I think you mean

    “suing to prevent a rigged election, a decision made by a desperate party that can’t win without stacking the deck.”

  5. Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 05/31/2012 - 09:26 am.

    We are blessed to have the ACLU

    The ACLU is just what Democracy ordered. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have this organization digging deep into legislation and exposing negative consequences. It turns out that dissent is patriotic.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/31/2012 - 09:52 am.

    You can complain about court interference if you want….

    But this going to be decided by the courts one way or anther anyways. This amendment is so poorly written and conceived as to be unworkable if it passes. Proponents seem to think that the “enabling legislation” means they can just make it whatever they want after they get it passed. They don’t seem to understand that constitutional amendments are not simply legislation by other means, you cannot modify an amendment with ordinary legislation after the fact, any attempts to do so one way or the other will end up in court. You can say the legislature will implement the ID, but you still have to decide what ID? You can say the Legislature will implement the provisional ballots, but you still have to decide when and if the ballots will be counted, and what to do with them in the meantime. You can say you’re not eliminating same day registration, or mucking with absentee ballots but the practical effect of requiring ID and creating provisional ballots will do so anyways.

    I wrote a blog about this that was carried by the Blog Cabin here in Minnpost back in April:

  7. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 05/31/2012 - 10:46 pm.

    Photo ID

    It is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Much worse is that it actually makes voter fraud easier.

  8. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 06/17/2012 - 05:31 pm.

    A Pig in a Poke

    No intelligent person could possibly vote in favor of this amendment. It doesn’t tell us how it is going to work, but much more, it doesn’t tell us how much money they can spend or rather force the taxpayers to spend to implement this proposed amendment. I don’t want them rasing the cost of my Drivers License or my property taxes an exorbitant amount to finance this. Even though I agree a voter ID is a good thing, I am not going to vote for this, it is like giving a bunch of politicians a blank check.

  9. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/03/2012 - 04:47 pm.

    They already beat you to it.

    “The power of taxation shall never be surrendered, suspended or contracted away.”

    Article X, Section 1, Minnesota Constitution.

Leave a Reply