As we mentioned earlier today, the State Supreme Court shut down two lawsuits that were intended to hinder or remove the constitutional ballot questions that the legislature put on the ballot for this cycle.
The first measure is the Photo ID amendment, which was under a two-pronged attack. First, the allegedly nonpartisan League of Women Voters, along with ACLU-MN and other groups, attempted to have the Photo ID amendment pulled off the ballot. This got shut down 4-2, with the court concluding that “The proper role for the judiciary, however, is not to second-guess the wisdom of policy decisions that the constitution commits to one of the political branches.”
That's exactly right, although the courts have often failed to heed that advice.
The second ruling was equally significant in that it shut down Mark Ritchie, the activist DFL Secretary of State, who tried to rewrite how the Photo ID amendment and the marriage amendment would appear on the ballot. The legislature sent up specific titles to appear on each ballot, which Ritchie changed in a fairly tendentious manner.
Legislators had called the Photo ID amendment: “Photo Identification Required for Voting.” Ritchie changed the title to read: “Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots.”
On the marriage amendment, legislators used the title: “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.” Ritchie’s rewrite was: “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.”
I'll be honest with you -- the Photo ID amendment matters a lot more to me. We've been round and round on gay marriage and as I've written before, this is a battle that ultimately conservatives are going to lose, mostly because young people are being taught that it is a civil rights issue, especially in the public schools. While I don't agree with that, the view will prevail and most of the constitutional amendments that are passing in the various states will eventually go away, probably within 10-20 years. At that point we'll begin the unwitting longitudinal study that will eventually reveal, years after most readers of this feature are pushing up daisies, whether or not gay marriage is a good idea or not. My future grandchildren and great-grandchildren (God willing) will get to suss that one out.
The Photo ID amendment is much more important, because it goes the integrity of elections. Voter suppression is the usual charge you hear, but as a practical matter the real issue is multiple votes and illegal votes. The challenge is getting local election officials and prosecutors, who are partisans, to take such things seriously. Minnesota Majority identified 1,099 cases of felons voting in the Franken/Coleman election and over 200 cases have been either adjudicated or are in the process of being investigated. The rest aren't going to see the light of day because the local prosecutors can't be bothered. Franken won the election by on 312 votes.
The other important thing is this -- if you ever had any doubt about it before, the claims of nonpartisanship from the League of Women Voters are preposterous. The LWV is a left-wing advocacy group. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as they stop pretending to be something other than what they are.
Now the amendments go for a vote. I expect Photo ID to win easily. The marriage amendment will be close. Opponents of both amendments will have ample opportunity to state their case. They just can't depend on Mark Ritchie to keep his thumb on the scale this time.