League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, No. A12–0920.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
PartiesLEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS MINNESOTA; Common Cause, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation; Jewish Community Action; Gabriel Herbers; Shannon Doty; Gretchen Nickence; John Harper Ritten; Kathryn Ibur, Petitioners, v. Mark RITCHIE, in his capacity as Secretary of State of the State of Minnesota, and not in his individual capacity, Respondent.
Decision Date27 August 2012
Docket NumberNo. A12–0920.

819 N.W.2d 636

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS MINNESOTA; Common Cause, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation; Jewish Community Action; Gabriel Herbers; Shannon Doty; Gretchen Nickence; John Harper Ritten; Kathryn Ibur, Petitioners,
v.
Mark RITCHIE, in his capacity as Secretary of State of the State of Minnesota, and not in his individual capacity, Respondent.

No. A12–0920.

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Aug. 27, 2012.


[819 N.W.2d 639]



Syllabus by the Court

1. Permissive intervention of the Minnesota House and Senate is appropriate when the intervenors present common questions of law and fact with the present action. Intervention of a nonprofit organization is inappropriate, however, when the entity's only interest in the proposed constitutional amendment at issue is lobbying for passage and the entity's interests will be adequately represented by the House and Senate intervenors.

2. Minnesota Statutes § 204B.44 (2010), provides this court with subject-matter jurisdiction over a claim that a ballot question is so misleading that it violates the Minnesota Constitution because it deprives voters of the constitutional right to cast a vote for or against the proposed constitutional amendment.

3. The ballot question on a proposed constitutional amendment implementing a photographic identification requirement for Minnesota voters is not so unreasonable and misleading as to be a palpable evasion of the constitutional requirement in Minn. Const. art. IX, § 1, that constitutional amendments shall be submitted to a popular vote.


William Z. Pentelovitch, Richard G. Wilson, Justin H. Perl, Wayne S. Moskowitz, Alain M. Baudry, Catherine Ahlin–Halverson, Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, LLP, Minneapolis, MN; Teresa Nelson, American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN; and Laughlin McDonald (pro hac vice), American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc., Atlanta, GA, for petitioners.

Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State, Saint Paul, MN, for respondent.


Robert R. Weinstine, Thomas H. Boyd, Kristopher D. Lee, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, for intervenors-respondents.

Timothy P. Griffin, Liz Kramer, Leonard, Street and Deinard Professional Association, Minneapolis, MN; and Daniel B. Kohrman, AARP Foundation Litigation, Michael Schuster, AARP, Washington, D.C., for amicus curiae AARP.

Sara R. Grewing, City Attorney, Gerald T. Hendrickson, Deputy City Attorney, Saint Paul, MN, for amicus curiae City of Saint Paul.

Mark A. Jacobson, Paul A. Banker, Kelly G. Laudon, Carrie Ryan Gallia, Lindquist & Vennum P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, MN, for amicus curiae Citizens for Election Integrity—Minnesota.

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, David C. Brown, Senior Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, for amicus curiae Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

Nathan J. Marcusen, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Minneapolis, MN; Zachary S. Kester (pro hac vice), Kaylan L. Phillips (pro hac vice), Noel H. Johnson (pro hac vice), ActRight Legal Foundation, Washington, D.C.; and J. Christian Adams (pro hac vice), Election Law Center, PLLC, Alexandria, VA, for amicus curiae Minnesota Majority.

Erick G. Kaardal, William F. Mohrman, Mohrman & Kaardal, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, for amici curiae State Senator Scott J. Newman and State Representative Mary Kiffmeyer.

[819 N.W.2d 640]



OPINION

PER CURIAM.

This action was brought under Minn.Stat. § 204B.44 (2010), seeking to correct an alleged error in the preparation of the ballot for the general election. Specifically, petitioners seek to prevent the people of Minnesota from voting on the question of whether photographic identification should be required to vote in Minnesota. The court is unanimous in concluding that petitioners are not entitled to this unprecedented relief.1 We express no opinion in this case as to the merits of changing Minnesota law to require photographic identification to vote; that question, as petitioners concede, is not presented in this case. Because we conclude that the petitioners have not met their burden of demonstrating that there is an error that requires the judiciary to intercede, we deny the petition.

In April 2012, the Legislature approved a proposed amendment to Article VII, Section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution. This section currently provides:

Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. The place of voting by one otherwise qualified who has changed his residence within 30 days preceding the election shall be prescribed by law. The following persons shall not be entitled or permitted to vote at any election in this state: A person not meeting the above requirements; a person who has been convicted of treason or felony, unless restored to civil rights; a person under guardianship, or a person who is insane or not mentally competent.

Minn. Const. art. VII, § 1. The proposed amendment would designate the provision above as (a) and add two subsections, (b) and (c), as follows:


(b) 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.

(c) 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.

Ch. 167, § 1, 2012 Minn. Laws 145, 145–46.


In the same session law, the Legislature also approved the language of the question to be placed on the November 2012 general election ballot concerning the proposed constitutional amendment:

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

[819 N.W.2d 641]

to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?

Id. § 2(a), 2012 Minn. Laws at 146. Finally, the Legislature approved a title for the ballot question: “Photo Identification Required for Voting.” Id. § 2(b), 2012 Minn. Laws at 146.


In order to become effective, the amendment must be agreed to by “a majority of all the electors voting at the election,” not just a majority of those voting on the amendment itself. Minn. Const. art. IX, § 1. The legislation at issue in this case provides that, if approved, the constitutional amendment would become “effective July 1, 2013, for all voting at elections scheduled to be conducted November 5, 2013, and thereafter.” Ch. 167, § 2(a), 2012 Minn. Laws at 146.

On May 30, 2012, petitioners filed a petition with our court under Minn.Stat. § 204B.44, seeking to “strik[e] the ballot question pertaining to the Voter Identification and Provisional Ballot Amendment” and to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing the question on the November 2012 general election ballot. Petitioners allege that the Legislature's ballot question “is misleading because it does not accurately and factually describe the proposed amendment, and because it fails to describe at all certain important substantive provisions contained in the amendment.”

We issued a scheduling order that set deadlines for briefs, requests to intervene, and requests for amicus participation. League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, A12–0920, Order (Minn. filed June 1, 2012). The named respondent, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, declined to file a brief on the merits, but submitted an affidavit of Gary Poser, Director of Elections for the State of Minnesota, that explained the dates by which a decision was needed to timely prepare ballots for the general election.

I.

We received motions to intervene from State Senator Scott J. Newman and State Representative Mary Kiffmeyer, Minnesota Majority, Inc., the 87th Minnesota House of Representatives, and the 87th Minnesota Senate. We granted intervention to the House and the Senate, but denied the motions of Minnesota Majority and the individual legislators. League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, A12–0920, Order at 2–3 (Minn. filed June 15, 2012). We issued our order on the intervention motions with opinion to follow, and now set forth the basis for that order. Id. at 4.

All three motions to intervene sought intervention as of right under Minn. R. Civ. P. 24.01:

Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action when the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties.

Rule 24.01 establishes four requirements for intervention as of right: (1) a timely application; (2) an interest in the subject of the action; (3) an inability to protect that interest unless the applicant is a party to the action; and (4) the applicant's interest is not adequately represented by existing parties. Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Schumacher, 392 N.W.2d 197, 207 (Minn.1986). All those seeking intervention contended that they satisfied each of the requirements. Alternatively, the proposed intervenors sought permissive intervention

[819 N.W.2d 642]

under Minn. R. Civ. P. 24.02, which requires only that the proposed intervenors have “a common question of law or fact” with the action.


With respect to the House and the Senate, petitioners do not object to the permissive intervention of these bodies. Given that the named respondent, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, did not participate in a substantive...

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41 practice notes
  • State v. Smith, Nos. A14–0941
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 9, 2016
    ...is a nonparty amicus, and therefore we need not reach its separate First Amendment argument. See League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie,819 N.W.2d 636, 645 n. 7 (Minn.2012) ("Generally, we do not decide issues raised by an amicus that are not raised by the litigants themselves.").6 The con......
  • Cruz-Guzman v. State, A16-1265
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 25, 2018
    ...(Minn. 2017).Our analysis begins with the text of the Minnesota Constitution. See 916 N.W.2d 13 League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie , 819 N.W.2d 636, 646 (Minn. 2012). The Speech or Debate Clause provides:The members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the pe......
  • Dereje v. State, No. A11–1147.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 9, 2013
    ...words are used in the same context, we assume that the words have different meanings. See League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, 819 N.W.2d 636, 685 n. 29 (Minn.2012) (Anderson, Paul H., J., dissenting). Keeping these principles in mind, we consider the language of Minn. R.Crim. P. 26.01,......
  • Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, A17-1142
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • November 16, 2017
    ...at 416. We conclude that, given the respect the Judiciary owes to our coordinate branches, see League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, 819 N.W.2d 636, 651 (Minn. 2012), and the detailed, specific tools provided by our constitution to resolve political disputes, it would be unwise for us to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • State v. Smith, Nos. A14–0941
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 9, 2016
    ...is a nonparty amicus, and therefore we need not reach its separate First Amendment argument. See League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie,819 N.W.2d 636, 645 n. 7 (Minn.2012) ("Generally, we do not decide issues raised by an amicus that are not raised by the litigants themselves.").6 The con......
  • Cruz-Guzman v. State, A16-1265
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 25, 2018
    ...(Minn. 2017).Our analysis begins with the text of the Minnesota Constitution. See 916 N.W.2d 13 League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie , 819 N.W.2d 636, 646 (Minn. 2012). The Speech or Debate Clause provides:The members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the pe......
  • Dereje v. State, No. A11–1147.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 9, 2013
    ...words are used in the same context, we assume that the words have different meanings. See League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, 819 N.W.2d 636, 685 n. 29 (Minn.2012) (Anderson, Paul H., J., dissenting). Keeping these principles in mind, we consider the language of Minn. R.Crim. P. 26.01,......
  • Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, A17-1142
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • November 16, 2017
    ...at 416. We conclude that, given the respect the Judiciary owes to our coordinate branches, see League of Women Voters Minn. v. Ritchie, 819 N.W.2d 636, 651 (Minn. 2012), and the detailed, specific tools provided by our constitution to resolve political disputes, it would be unwise for us to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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