GOP Senators file complaint against Secretary of State

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Two Republican lawmakers say they think DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has gone too far in his criticism of Minnesota’s voter ID constitutional amendment, which is on the November ballot.

Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, and Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, filed a formal complaint today with the Office of Administrative Hearings. It accuses Ritchie of multiple violations of state campaign law.

Parry and Newman, who have hired attorney Fritz Knaak to represent them, claim that Ritchie traveled throughout the state in his official capacity at taxpayer expense to promote what they view as his personal anti-voter ID agenda. They also claim he used those travels, as well as his office’s website, to mislead voters about the impact of a new photo identification requirement.

Newman said it’s the secretary of state’s job to implement election laws without bias.

“I don’t view Mark Ritchie as being some type of an election cop, whose responsibility it is to protect the people of the state of Minnesota from the Legislature’s bill on this constitutional amendment,” Newman said. “Neither do I believe that he, using his position as secretary of state, has a job to try to influence the outcome of this ballot initiative.”

Newman said he believes Ritchie misused public funds and illegally engaged in political activity as a state employee. He also contends the secretary of state has repeatedly made false and misleading statements about voter ID, including that it will cost $50 million to implement and will end same-day registration.

The allegations against Ritchie were first raised back in July, when Parry called a rare summer hearing of the State Government Innovation and Veterans committee that he chairs. Ritchie didn’t show up, and Parry hasn’t forgotten the snub.

“It was arrogant on his part, not showing up, both him and the attorney general,” Parry said. “I mean, we could have solved this. I just kept getting e-mails from the public. What are you going to do? Can you do something? You’re the chairman. He falls under your authority. What can you do?”

Parry then abruptly ended the news conference, even though reporters were still asking questions.

A spokesman for the secretary of state said the office had not yet received a copy of the complaint and declined further comment.

UPDATE

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie issued this statement:

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie does not comment on litigation.

“I continue to work closely with local elections officials to ensure that the 2012 General Election is efficient and accurate.

Minnesotans wishing to register to vote and to vote absentee should visit mnvotes.org www.mnvotes.org our one-stop voter information website. The website contains direct links to the Voter Registration Lookup, Absentee Ballot Lookup, My Ballot, and Polling Place Finder. It also has same day registration and other important voter information.”

Here’s the complaint:

Ritchie Complaint

  • JB

    “it’s the secretary of state’s job to implement election laws” isn’t that what he is doing by educating people that this law may take away their right to vote

  • BJ

    As opposed to Parry and Newman, who don’t do it on “state time”?

  • Raoul

    Maybe it’s different in Indiana, but their state’s GOP Secretary of State has hucked their Photo ID law any chance he gets.

  • Jamie

    Republican Mary Kiffmeyer also did plenty of promoting of the Republican agenda when she was secretary of state. Parry and Newman didn’t complain about that.

    Parry and Newman are not Ritchie’s bosses, either — he doesn’t “fall under [their] authority.” Governor Dayton is his boss.

    Mark Ritchie has a resposibility as Secretary of State to make sure our election system works for the people. This ALEC-sponsored amendment would hurt our election system in a big way. H e absolutely SHOULD be spending his time and state money on the issue.

  • John Kysylyczyn

    Jamie, you better read the constitution before you repeat that statement again that Richie’s boss is Dayton or you will continue to look foolish.

    BJ, Richie is paid close to $100,000 and is considered a full time employee. What do Senator’s make? $30,000 a year, and like it or not, it is considered part time.

    Did Richie use a state car on his travels? Probably from the sounds of things. Did the senators use state cars? No, they don’t have state cars.

    JB kind of answered his own question. It is the SOS’s job to implement the law, not lobby on ballot issues while on state time. Richie calls it “education”, most people would call it lobbying.

    Maybe if I become a big time lobbyist in the future, I will tell the Campaign Finance Board that I don’t need to register as a lobbyist, because I am not lobbying, I am “educating” like Richie did. Who thinks they will buy that line?

  • Jamie

    Mark Ritchie has every right to go around the state in a state vehicle, educating people about the harm the voter ID amendment would do. It’s his job. The LyingBullies (aka Republicans) have spent lots of state money promoting this scam, so someone’s got to educate the public about it. And he is not lobbying. The time for lobbying on this is over: The LyingBullies already pushed this through the Legislature as part of an ALEC-sponsored nationwide effort to suppress the Democratic vote.

  • Robert

    It is amazing how many people think that a Secretary of State is as a lobbyists for his own personal ideals and that we as taxpayers should foot the bill for his use of public funds to do so.

    His job is to make sure the laws of the state are enforced. The legislature makes and changes law. The Sec of State upholds them and in my opinion should be fired for even publically denouncing a state law in any way period.

    I hope he goes to prison.

  • Jamie

    Again, what he is doing is not lobbying, and it’s not just his “personal ideals” that he is telling people about. He is educating people. Many Minnesotans are uninformed about what this amendment would do to our currently squeaky-clean election system. He absolutely SHOULD be trying to educate people because if this scam goes through, it will make it impossible for many LEGALLY ELIGIBLE people to cast a vote. There are already many cases of this ocurring in this relatively new nationwide scam.

    A few LyingBullies have publicly declared that this is a scheme to suppress the Democratic vote. That is the only reason for it.

  • Nancy G

    Great analysis by John K that SOS uses a state vehicle to travel the state! Based on “Probably, by the sound of things.”

    Has John seen the SOS driving a state vehicle? I never have, and I visit the Capitol occasionally. The Office of the Governor has a vehicle, and I don’t think he regularly loans it out to the SOS, or to the Attorney General. Secretary Ritchie was driving a vehicle that appeared to be personally owned whenever I saw him in transit.

    And is answering questions and rendering opinions to Legislative committees and Minnesotans considered lobbying? I don’t think so. I think it’s considered the duties of the office of the Secretary of State. Disagreeing with the opinion or the answer does not make it “lobbying.”

  • BJ

    Mr Mayor (John Kysylyczyn) – Since he is not “educating” in front of the state legislature members, it’s not lobbying (in the sense you brought up – filing CFB reports). As someone who worked for the state senate for several years I would think you already knew that.