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Senators: Minnesota Secretary of State campaigns against amendment

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie uses state funds to campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photographic identification, two Republican state senators allege in a complaint filed Thursday.

Sens. Scott Newman of Hutchinson and Mike Parry of Waseca asked the state Office of Administrative Hearings to find that Ritchie also misleads Minnesotans about the proposal, to be decided by voters Nov. 6.

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

Ritchie, a Democrat, refused to comment on the complaint.

The senators' complaint claims:

- Ritchie's state Website advocates against the amendment, including a page labeled "Why proposed amendment would end same-day registration." Newman and Parry said testimony offered to legislative committees shows that would not happen.

- The secretary says state and local governments would pay up to $50 million to implement the photo ID amendment. The senators say estimates they have received are far less.

- Ritchie tells people that military personnel and others overseas would not be able to present photo IDs, so could not vote absentee. Republicans say the Legislature could pass laws that allow that to continue.

- A letter on Ritchie's official letterhead to an organization of parents of military personnel and veterans advocated a vote against the amendment.

- "Mr. Ritchie has repeatedly used state of Minnesota public resources, including motor vehicles, hotel reimbursements, time spent for which he was paid to do state duties" to campaign against the amendment. Senators said prime among the violations are anti-amendment comments during interviews with local newspapers while traveling on official business.

Voters will decide 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 cost taxpayers, and said any state expenses used 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.

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.