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.