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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published July 20 2012

Republicans question Ritchie’s dealing with amendment

ST. PAUL – Republicans say Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie may be breaking state campaign laws by speaking out against a proposed constitutional amendment to be on Minnesotans’ ballots Nov. 6.

Sen. Mike Parry said he is considering taking Ritchie to court or issuing a legislative subpoena requiring the secretary to testify. The senator even said Ritchie could be recalled.

Parry, a Waseca Republican and candidate for U.S. House in southern Minnesota, called a Friday meeting of his Senate state government committee on the issue, but Ritchie and Attorney General Lori Swanson rejected his invitation to testify.

The senator and other Republicans said Ritchie is telling Minnesotans things about a proposed amendment to require voters to produce photo identification that are not true. Parry also said he thinks Ritchie’s actions amount to campaigning on state time.

Ritchie has refused to comment on the issue since three constitutional amendment questions landed in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Parry said he will decide “within days” his next steps against Ritchie.

Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said Ritchie is trying to influence voters.

“That is not his job,” said Newman, Senate sponsor of the photo ID proposal. The secretary is the state’s top elections officer.

Democrats on Parry’s committee said Ritchie is just telling voters what to expect if the photo ID amendment passes. They said he is doing nothing wrong.

“It is his duty to tell the people of Minnesota what he thinks this will do,” Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, said. “I think this is kind of a false accusation.”

If Republicans opt to sue Ritchie, the action would be added to three related cases pending in the Minnesota Supreme Court:

• Whether Ritchie’s rewrite of the legislatively passed title to the photo ID amendment is legal.

• Whether Ritchie’s new title for a proposed amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman is legal.

• Whether the wording of the photo ID question to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot accurately reflects the actual proposed amendment.

Parry called the meeting to discuss Ritchie rewriting the titles to two Republican-sponsored amendment proposals that voters will decide in the fall election, but nearly all of the discussion was about the photo ID issue.

One complaint Republicans on Parry’s committee discussed was Ritchie is telling Minnesotans that requiring a photo ID to vote would end the state’s traditional Election Day registration practice. But, GOP senators said, nothing in the amendment proposal would change registration.

Parry said Ritchie crossed the line from educating Minnesotans about the amendment to campaigning against it.

“To insert speculation without knowledge and backing” appears to show Ritchie is campaigning against the amendment, Parry said.

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