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Legal Action Planned Against Amendment Wording Changes

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- Gov. Mark Dayton is considering a special legislative session for state aid to flood-weary northeastern Minnesota. But some lawmakers are talking about adding another item to the agenda, that could revive two of the most controversial issues of the last decade.

It's a call to arms for irritated Republican lawmakers. They're preparing legislation to stop Secretary of State Mark Ritchie from changing the wording for the gay marriage and voter ID amendments on the ballot this fall.

Republicans say the new wording on the constitutional amendments is a deliberate attempt to turn voters against them. And they are preparing to pass a new law to stop it from happening.

"If the governor wants to call a special session, then game on," said Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge. "If the Secretary of State wants to play political games, then let's engage."

Nienow and others are preparing legislation to strip the Secretary of State of any power to change a constitutional amendment after it passes.

Ritchie claims legal authority to change the titles on the gay marriage and voter ID amendments, using the words "limiting" and for voter ID, "changing," a concern he raised in April.

But political scientists like Dr. Larry Jacobs say those words could influence voter behavior. And that Ritchie's action could be seen as a way to "tilt the playing field."

"Words matter," he said. "We know from a lot of research that the words chosen in public opinion surverys of voters and ballots can influence a certain number of voters who are up for grabs."

Nienow says the Senate is researching ways to react to what he calls, "Ritchie's over-reach."

"If we passed a bill and the governor signed it into law that said, 'Here is what the title is and what the question will be,' that is the law," he said. "That is what it has to be."

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