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.
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: