Supreme Court strikes down Mark Ritchie's proposed amendment titles
The court struck down Ritchie's amendment titles in favor of the ones designated by the MNGOP-controlled legislature.
In a 4-2 ruling published this afternoon, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie does not have the authority to determine the names of constitutional amendment places on ballots.
Minnesota's constitution is unclear about whether the secretary of state or the legislature has the power to determine amendment titles. One statute says the secretary of state shall "provide an appropriate title for each question printed on the [constitutional amendment] ballot," while another says "A majority of the members elected to each house of the legislature may propose amendments to this constitution." The court ruled that the latter is the best interpretation.
The opinion reads (click here to read the full opinion):
The parties' dispute here centers on statutory interpretation -- the extent of the Secretary of State's authority under [statute] to provide a ballot title different from that designated by the Legislature in the bill approving the ballot question for a proposed constitutional amendment. We conclude [that statute] does not authorize the Secretary of State to provide a title for a ballot question for a proposed constitutional amendment that is different from the title chosen by the Legislature in the bill accompanying the proposed amendment.
Legislators had called the Photo ID amendment: "Photo Identification Required for Voting." Ritchie, following a state law that says the Secretary of State writes ballot titles, substituted this language: "Changes to In-person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots."
For marriage, legislators called the amendment: "Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman." Ritchie's title reads: "Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples."
Though this might seem like a matter of semantics, it's well established that slight changes in the way questions are worded can have a big impact on the way people respond. And with polling indicating that the marriage amendment vote will be close, semantics could be all it takes to sway the outcome one way or the other.
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