On Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard two cases on the same issue: can the secretary of state write the title of amendments to appear on the ballot?
DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie changed the ballot titles of both the proposed voter ID and marriage amendments from what the Republican-controlled Legislature had originally proposed.
Attorney Jordan Lorence argued that the Legislature has the “higher authority” to title ballot questions, not the secretary of state.
Solicitor General Alan Gilbert argued that based on a 1919 Minnesota statute, the role of titling lies with the secretary of state and that Ritchie’s titles are accurate.
For the marriage amendment, the Legislature had penned the title “Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman.” Ritchie changed it to “Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples.”
The voter ID amendment was originally titled “Photo identification required for voting.” Ritchie has changed it to “Changes to in-person & absentee voting & voter registration; provisional ballots.”
Attorney Erick Kaardal raised issue with the lack of the term “photographic identification” in Ritchie’s new title, arguing that it is therefore not appropriate.
Justice Paul Anderson said he sees problems with both descriptions. He asked whether the court could instead write “Should the Minnesota Constitution be amended to read as follows?” followed by the full amendment texts.
Justice Alan Page seemed to prefer that, too.
“Wouldn’t that be easier?” he asked.
The court is expected to rule by late August to allow time for ballot printing.