GOP legislative sponsors Kiffmeyer and Newman want to intervene in Photo ID lawsuit

Sen. Scott Newman, left, and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer were the principal sponsors of the Photo ID amendment.

Two Republican lawmakers are attempting to intervene in a lawsuit aimed at keeping the proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment from appearing on the November ballot.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer and Sen. Scott Newman, who sponsored the measure, asked to become part of the lawsuit in addition to the only named respondent, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, according to papers their attorneys filed with the Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday.

An attorney for the pair said they were concerned that Ritchie — a vocal Photo ID opponent — wouldn’t adequately represent the legislative majorities’ interests in court.

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 ballot question doesn’t properly inform voters of the amendment’s consequences.

A Supreme Court hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 17.

Minnesota Majority, a pro-Photo ID group, said on May 30, when the alliance of organizations filed the lawsuit, that Ritchie defending the amendment was the equivalent of “the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Minnesota Majority also is expected to file paperwork today to intervene in the suit.

“The only named party on the lawsuit is Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who has indicated publicly that he’s opposed to the referendum,” said William Mohrman, an attorney for the lawmakers. “We’re concerned as to whether or not he’s really going to adequately, and more than adequately — vigorously — defend the referendum as proposed by the Legislature.”

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state said the office doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, laughed to himself when he discussed the Republican petition.

“They feel they’re not represented,” he said. “Of course, there are a lot of people who felt they weren’t represented on this bill either.”

Lawmakers and groups who oppose the ballot question are afraid it could disenfranchise such at-risk voters as students, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Republican lawmakers pushed the constitutional amendment through the Legislature last session after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed proposed statutory language in 2011.

Since the constitutional amendment approach passed in early April, Photo ID opponents have been preparing for a court challenge to have it removed from the ballot using a judiciary order. A court in Missouri made a similar move in late March, which laid the framework for the Minnesota lawsuit.

According to the Republican lawmakers’ filing, neither chamber of the Legislature will intervene in the lawsuit, as Minnesota Majority had indicated as a possibility last month. Kiffmeyer and Newman are requesting to intervene as individual lawmakers and claim that removing the question from the ballot would violate the separation of powers between branches of government.

“Otherwise, you’re going to basically have … the balance of powers between the three branches of government tipping in favor of the judiciary and the executive,” Mohrman said. “Our clients believe that the legislators’ power in this case is pre-eminent and is to be protected.”

Kiffmeyer said she didn’t “know for sure what they might be doing or not doing” when asked why the Legislature wasn’t intervening in the litigation.

It appears Kiffmeyer will be financing the legal representation herself, although she remained vague on the subject.

“I am taking care of that, and it’s something between me and the attorneys,” she said Thursday afternoon.

Newman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/08/2012 - 11:15 am.

    Why wouldn’t the GOP caucuses intervene?

    I understand Kiffmeyer wanting to intervene, since she’s obsessed with this issue (might explain why she was such a dreadful secretary of state) but I’m mystified their caucuses left them on their own. This was the GOP’s top priority, aside from maybe the marriage ban. I understand not wanting to leave it to Ritchie since he’s clearly on the other side, and there’s no reason to think he’d be obligated to defend it since it’s not the law yet and he isn’t a legislator. In fact, since his job is administering elections and this amendment would make it much more difficult if not impossible to administer them fairly, I would expect him to support the plaintiffs if not be a plaintiff.

    I realize this is a side issue to the plaintiffs’ complaint that the wording on the ballot doesn’t reflect the underlying legislation, but it just seems interesting the GOP isn’t getting behind this, just two legislators on their own and the advocacy group that lobbied for it.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/08/2012 - 01:39 pm.

      This time, it’s personal

      Mark Ritchie is not the one who will be defending the wording of the ballot question. That job falls to Lori Swanson, per the state constitution.

      I don’t think that’s the point for La Kiffmeyer. She wants revenge. She has not yet forgivenRitchie for beating her in a fair, open election.

      It’s a pity her paladin-in-chief Michael Brodkorb is otherwise engaged these days.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/08/2012 - 12:43 pm.

    “Kiffmeyer remained vague”

    Isn’t vagueness–on what exactly is being proposed–the problem with the ballot question? I see a pattern here.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2012 - 01:02 pm.

    Well, how much do ALEC attorneys charge?

    Vagueness is what got us into this situation in the first place. I don’t think there be separation issues if the court rules that the question has to be reworded, rather than simply withdrawn. I’ve never seen a group of more constitutionally clueless than these so called tenthers.

  4. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 06/08/2012 - 02:48 pm.

    What about the Constitution?

    Ritchie works or the whole state, as does Swanson, per the Constitution, seems like the Legislators need a lesson in the Legislatures roles and limitations. How ironic.

  5. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 06/08/2012 - 10:13 pm.

    Funny Money

    Kiffmeyer says she is “taking care of” the fees for her legal action. I suspect that means the Koch brothers are writing a check for it. Or maybe the catholic archdiocese will contribute money “from investments” like they did for the Marriage Discrimination amendment. Shuffing contributions through the “investment fund” is a great way to hide the identity of donors.

  6. Submitted by Tom Rees on 06/10/2012 - 11:54 am.

    amicus curiæ

    As a former legislator I used the amicus curiae brief as a way to effectively submit information I felt was necessary for the Supreme Court to know when deciding a case affecting my district. I would suggest that the legislators referenced in this story follow the same course. Note: I did pay for the brief from my personal funds.

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