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Ritchie ready to aid voters

November 1, 2012
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Secretary of State Mark Ritchie isn't campaigning this year, but he is making the rounds in an effort to clear up any confusion voters might have going into this year's election.

Three million Minnesotans are expected to walk into voting booths on Nov. 6, according to Ritchie, who stopped by the Sentinel on Wednesday afternoon.

From the calls his office has been receiving, Ritchie is keenly aware of the many questions people have this election season.

First off, there's the logistics. Go online to www.mnvotes.org to check your voter registration, find your polling place, and learn more about absentee voting.

Eligible residents who are unable to vote on election day have until Saturday to cast an absentee ballot at their county auditor's office and in some cases their city or township hall. Ritchie is encouraging anyone who might be needed to assist with damage control from Superstorm Sandy to consider voting absentee before they are called away.

Redistricting also has the potential to create headaches for voters and officials next week.

"Save yourself a little bit of time and double check your registration and polling place," Ritchie said.

The Secretary of State's website also has an option called "My Ballot," which allows voters to enter their address and review the candidates up for election. Many of the candidates on your "ballot" will have links to their own websites, where they provide more information about themselves.

"My Ballot" also provides a link to the two pending constitutional amendments on voter IDs and same-sex marriage. By clicking on the amendment, voters can see how it will be phrased on the ballot, but they will also be able to fully examine how the amendment will change the state constitution.

For example, on the ballot, the voter ID amendment asks the following:

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?"

Here is the actual Constitutional amendment voters will be deciding on:

"All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.

"All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted."

Twenty years ago, when constitutional amendments were proposed, it was legally required that they be publicly announced. Today, newspapers no longer print the amendment proposals, and many voters no longer have the luxury of carefully perusing the details and potential complications that can come with constitutional amendments.

Ritchie would like to see the state go back to its old publication policy, and he would also like to see Minnesota make it more difficult to pass amendments. Minnesota only requires the majority of voters approve an amendment, the lowest threshold in the nation, Ritchie said. Most require a super-majority three-fourths vote.

And there are specific concerns the state official has with the voter ID amendment, like the requirement for "government-issued" identification. "Government-approved" ID was considered but failed to make it in the final wording, which means, for example, that nursing home rosters are not an adequate form of identification, according to Ritchie.

Ritchie also said since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Homeland Security rules have made it much more difficult for the average citizen to get a government-issued ID.

He also predicts problems for local governments, which will cover the cost of the proposed amendment.

"There are 530 townships that have gone to vote-by-mail, and they'll have to give it up," Ritchie said. "For a township or a county, this is a money issue."

There's also the question of how the voter ID amendment would impact elections in case of a natural disaster or some other emergency that would disrupt polling places. And then, Ritchie asked, what happens when technology changes? The state official strongly disagreed with the amendment's author - Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, former secretary of state - who said in an MPR debate this week that constitutional amendments are not that difficult to change.

Ritchie believes there are easier ways to address voter ID than what the amendment calls for, and he is optimistic lawmakers will look at those options if the amendment fails to pass next week.

 
 

 

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