Whose Title for Ballot Amendment on Voting Changes?

Petitioners ask Minnesota Supreme Court to favor Legislature's original title over secretary of state's revision.

Supporters of a photo ID requirement for Minnesota voters asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to put the Legislature's original choice of words on the ballot as the title of the amendment. Many of Southwest Minneapolis' elected officials are opposed to the amendment.

Minnesota Majority, ProtectMyVote.com and a group of legislators filed a petition and brief with the Supreme Court Thursday afternoon, requesting that the justices throw out Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's rewrite of the amendment title as it will appear on ballots this fall.

The two versions of the amendment title have only one word in common ("Voting"):

  • Legislature' title: “Photo Identification Required for Voting”
  • Secretary of State's title: “Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration, Provisional Ballots.”

The move comes two days after the high court held a hearing on opponents' request that they take the proposed amendment off the ballot altogether.

Supporters say the amendment will prevent voter fraud. Opponents say fraud isn't rampant and argue the amendment will upend features of Minnesota's election process such as same-day registration. (The amendment is one of two the state Legislature approved for November's election—the marriage amendment is the other.)

In a statement, Minnesota Majority noted that—"ironically"—both sides' appeals rely on the same law: Minnesota’s Errors and Omissions statute.

Ritchie contends it's his job to make sure the title reflects the meaning of the proposed amendment, even if that means altering the words the Legislature chose.

The amendment's supporters disagree. "The secretary of state’s duty is purely ministerial," said Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) in a statement. "The secretary’s title is about as clear as mud."


See the brief and petition amendment supporters filed Thursday by clicking on the PDF thumbnails.


For reference, here is the text of the photo ID bill, which contains the language of the proposed Constitutional amendment, and the exact wording of the question that voters will see on the ballot (they're different):

House File 2738, as approved by the House and Senate:
An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution is proposed to the people.  If the amendment is adopted, article VII, section 1, will read:

Section 1. (a) Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. The place of voting by one otherwise qualified who has changed his residence within 30 days preceding the election shall be prescribed by law.The following persons shall not be entitled or permitted to vote at any election in this state: A person not meeting the above requirements; a person who has been convicted of treason or felony, unless restored to civil rights; a person under guardianship, or a person who is insane or not mentally competent. (b) All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law. (c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.

(a) The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2012 general election. If approved, the amendment is effective July 1, 2013, for all voting at elections scheduled to be conducted November 5, 2013, and thereafter. The question submitted must be:

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?
Yes ________
No  ________

(b) The title required under Minnesota Statutes, section 204D.15, subdivision 1, for the question submitted to the people under paragraph (a) shall be: 'Photo Identification Required for Voting.'"


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