The court today issued two per curiam decisions, with Justices Alan Page and Paul Anderson dissenting. Both cases are available here.
In the case challenging the voter ID amendment, the petitioners said the ballot question to be proposed to the voters was misleading and therefore unconstitutional. Relying on the 2006 Supreme Court opinion in Breza v. Kiffmeyer, a majority disagreed. The ballot question’s failures may be criticized, the court said, but “[t]he failures about which petitioners complain do not meet the ‘high standard’ required for the judiciary to intercede into a matter that is constitutionally committed to the legislative branch.”
Page wrote a 28-page dissent, and Anderson wrote 65 pages. “This is a case in which the words of the ballot question were phrased to actively deceive and mislead,” Page said. In accord, Anderson wrote, “While acknowledging our court’s constitutional right of review, the majority nevertheless grants so much deference to the Legislature that the current Legislature is granted power well beyond that provided for in the Constitution. Such a result offends the doctrine of separation of powers and creates a dangerous precedent.”
The justices line up in the same way in Limmer v. Ritchie, where the dispute concerned titles for both constitutional amendment questions provided by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Minnesota Statute sec. 204D.15, subd. 1 says that the secretary of state should provide an “appropriate” title for a ballot question. When the Legislature provides a title, then that is the “appropriate” title, the court said. Since the Legislature had already provided titles, the court said, the secretary exceeded his authority in substituting a different title.
Page said that “The court refuses to apply the plain language of section 204D.15 for fear of triggering a constitutional crisis. … “In the court’s view, to read section 204D.15 to allow the Secretary of State to choose a title different from that approved by the Legislature violates the separation of powers. I disagree with both propositions.”
Anderson noted, “It should not be lost on anyone that [the titling] process will now—based on the holding of our court—escape any scrutiny by either the executive or the judicial branch even if the title is inappropriate, inaccurate, misleading, or deceptive.”