The Minnesota Supreme Court took on the debate behind voter identification laws, as it addressed whether a ballot initiative on the matter was clear enough for voters, the Minnesota Star-Tribune reports.
In its current form, the proposal, which would go on the November ballot, refers to “valid” IDs. But the state’s League of Women Voters and other advocacy groups are asking the court to remove it, arguing that the measure does not specify that the IDs be “government-issued.”
Justice Alan Page said that distinction between the ballot’s actual wording and the requirement on the ballot initiative was misleading.
“It seems to me, in responding to the ballot question, I can’t know what I’m voting on,” Page said.
According to MinnPost, Thomas Boyd, representing the Republican-led state legislature, said judicial intervention would undermine the legislature’s authority.
“The legislature had the exclusive authority to present that to the people for a vote if they adopt it,” he said.
The bill had been opposed by state House and Senate Democrats even before it made it to the high court. In April, state Representative Steve Simon (D) told Minnesota Public Radio in April it was “an engraved invitation for a lawsuit,” and Governor Mark Dayton (D) said he would work against it.
“You know, at first blush it sounds good. I mean we all want every vote to be lawfully cast and everyone who’s lawfully eligible to be able to vote. We all agree on that,” Dayton said. “The question is how do you achieve that goal and not disenfranchise thousands of people? So, as Minnesotans become aware of the facts of the situation, I think public opinion will change.”
The politically-charged nature of the discussion led Justice David Stras to suggest Tuesday that maybe the Court should not get involved.
“Why shouldn’t we be hands off with this particular question? Why shouldn’t we say, ‘This is a political question?’” Stras asked. “It sounds a lot like there’s not much in terms of a remedy that we can give.”
A study released Wednesday by the Brennan Center for Justice saying such laws disenfranchise 1 in 10 eligible voters.
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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