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GOP senators accuse Ritchie of misleading Minnesotans about amendment

ST. PAUL -- Two Republican state senators today filed paperwork alleging Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has misled Minnesotans about a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show photographic identification.

Sens. Scott Newman of Hutchinson and Mike Parry of Waseca filed a 45-page document with the state Office of Administrative Hearings claiming Ritchie regularly overestimates the cost of requiring a photo ID, that he uses his office time and state-paid staff to campaign against the amendment and that he misleads the public about the amendment's impact.

"I hear him make statements I know are not true," Newman said.

Democrat Ritchie, who did not immediately react to the complaint, opposed the photo ID amendment because he says it would cost the state up to $50 million, eliminate same-day voter registration, stop overseas military personnel from voting and other reasons. Republicans who support the amendment said none of those are true.

Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to put the provision in the state Constitution. If it passes, the Legislature would return to the subject next year and decide specifics. That could affect the cost, how absentee ballots are handled and other election issues.

Parry said he wants to know how much Ritchie's travels are costing taxpayers, and said any state expenses to encourage voters to oppose the amendment are improper. Newman said if Ritchie is campaigning against the amendment on his own, he should have formed a campaign committee.

The senators said that they could take further action against Ritchie, including pursuing a recall or impeachment. A criminal case also is possible, Parry said.

Attorney Fritz Knaak, who often handles Republican election-related issues, said the Office of Administrative Hearings moves quickly, but he could not predict when action may occur.

Newman and Parry said the state and the Republican Senate caucus were not funding the legal action, but refused to say who is paying. State workers were paid for producing a news release announcing the action.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.