Senate Republicans are taking aim at Minnesota's chief election official, with allegations that DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has unlawfully campaigned against the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment.
During a hearing of the state government committee today, several GOP lawmakers suggested that Ritchie had overstepped his authority and may have violated campaign finance laws by criticizing the amendment during public appearances.
Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, a chief author of the amendment, said he thinks Ritchie should implement the law, and nothing more.
"I do not believe that it is within his responsibility as a constitutionally elected officer to travel around the state and be a proponent or opponent of legislation that we pass," Newman said.
Ritchie did not attend the hearing. But during a recent MPR News interview, he insisted that he is not telling people how to vote on the issue.
Several Democrats on the panel defended the Secretary of State. Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said Ritchie not only has the right, but the responsibility to respond to questions and offer his opinion on proposed policy changes.
"There's the ministerial duty for putting it on the ballot, and that's going to be done," Wiger said. "Voters will decide soon enough, and most have decided. I think this is more of a politically-charged atmosphere, which most people don't appreciate."
The chair of the committee, Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, said he's ready to launch an investigation and possibly file a lawsuit against Ritchie. Parry, who's a candidate for Congress in the 1st District, said he thinks Ritchie has made false statements about the ballot question.