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Letter: The actual ballot language

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As I visit with Minnesotans across the state, many are surprised to learn that they never get to see the actual language of the two proposed changes to our state's constitution on their ballot. This seems odd to many voters, given the importance of the constitution as our state's highest law, but that is our current procedure.

Up until 20 years ago the full text of all proposed amendments was printed as a legal notice in local newspapers at least a month before each election so citizens could read and discuss what they were being asked to vote on. But the Legislature ended this practice during a budget crunch.

This can be important if the proposed amendment has many different features and provisions like the proposed amendment on elections.

The actual language passed by the Legislature would add these words to our constitution:

"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.

"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."

On our ballots we will see a question summarizing the first two sentences of the actual proposed amendment language. The portions requiring "provisional ballots" and "substantially equivalent" verification of all in-person and absentee voters are not mentioned.

The words suggested by the Legislature for printing on the ballot are:

"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?"

Since constitutional amendments cannot be changed by either the governor or legislators, any change will have a very long-term and profound impact. Since constitutional changes are essentially forever, voters should know what legislators are actually proposing.

Additional information for the proposed constitutional amendments on this year's ballot, including links to organizations representing many viewpoints, may be found at: www.mnvotes.org.

Mark Ritchie

Minnesota Secretary of State

St. Paul

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