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More info sought before any decision on GOP complaint against Mark Ritchie

MinnPost photo by James Nord
Sens. Mike Parry and Scott Newman, with GOP attorney Fritz Knaak, center, filed a complaint against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie las week.

An administrative law judge is evaluating whether there’s probable cause in two GOP senators’ complaint alleging that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is misinforming voters and abusing his state office over the proposed voting amendment.

Fritz Knaak, a former GOP lawmaker and an attorney representing Sens. Mike Parry and Scott Newman, argued Friday in a telephone hearing that Ritchie used his office’s website and other avenues to mislead voters about the amendment’s cost and potential effects on Minnesota’s election system.

“It is my view that all the information regarding the proposed constitutional amendment on the secretary of state’s website is very, very misleading and is done for political purposes,” Newman said.

The administrative law judge, Bruce Johnson, determined earlier this week that he didn’t have jurisdiction to look into one aspect of the complaint — that Ritchie used state resources to campaign against the voting amendment.

The judge heard from Newman — the amendment’s chief Senate author — and a representative for the state attorney general’s office, who defended Ritchie.

Both Ritchie and Parry, who has been critical of the secretary of state’s stance on the amendment for months, were absent from the proceedings.

It’s now up to Johnson to determine whether the two senators’ claims, filed last week, warrant further hearings.

At issue on Friday was the validity of Ritchie’s assertions that the amendment could cost upward of $50 million to implement and whether it would significantly alter voting procedures.

Advocates for the amendment insist it would be relatively cheap to enact.

Kristyn Anderson, of the attorney general’s office, argued legislative cost estimates validated the secretary’s claims. She also defended Ritchie’s assertions that the amendment could end same-day voter registration and inhibit absentee and military voting.

Newman called the secretary of state’s doomsday claims “inaccurate, false information.”

Johnson will decide how to proceed after receiving additional information from both sides. If he determines there’s probable cause, a hearing would come next month.

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