City files amicus brief in Photo ID lawsuit

City raises concerns on legality and clarity of amendment language

The City of Saint Paul today filed an amicus brief in League of Women Voters of Minnesota v. Mark Ritchie.

The city raises concerns regarding the legality of the Photo ID Amendment question language that voters will read on the ballot before they cast their vote, as well as the lack of clarity around the effect of the Photo ID Amendment on college students, veterans and seniors.

“This misguided amendment is a solution in search of a problem. It will have far-reaching negative effects that will be felt by our seniors, veterans and students who will find it more and more difficult to cast a ballot,” Mayor Chris Coleman said. “If this amendment were passed, the ballots of more than 6,200 Saint Paul voters would be called into question. In a city where elections are sometimes decided by fewer than 40 votes, these numbers are significant. Minnesota is known for having the best voting system in the country. We should not put up unnecessary barriers for citizens to cast their ballots.”

In the brief, the city argues that Governor Dayton’s veto of the Photo ID bill in April has actual legal implications. The Governor does not have veto power over constitutional amendments, but he does have veto power over legislative items.

The Governor’s veto acted not only on the amendment itself, but the language in which the amendment will be described on the ballot, as well as the name of the amendment. These items were presented as ordinary legislation – meaning the Governor’s veto should remain.

“The governor vetoed both the title of the constitutional amendment, and the actual question to be put before the voters,” City Attorney Sara Grewing said. “As such, the so-called ‘Photo-ID’ question is not authorized by law and should not be placed on the ballot. The Minnesota Supreme Court should order that this bill be sent back to the Legislature for a veto override or further legislative clarification.”

Beyond the veto, the city argues that the ballot language does not accurately describe the amendment’s effects on college students, active military members living overseas and seniors, all of whom would face challenges to vote if the amendment passes, and has burdensome financial implications for agencies that monitor elections.

If the court recognizes the legitimacy of Governor Dayton’s veto, the ballot question language and the amendment title will have to be rewritten.