Voter ID bill headed to ballot

Published 9:52 am Thursday, April 5, 2012

Minnesota voters will decide the fate of the voter ID bill later this year.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would require Minnesota voters to show a photo ID at the polls cleared the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. The final decision for the amendment will be at the hands of voters on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Republican-controlled House passed the GOP bill shortly after midnight Wednesday on a 72-57 party-line vote. The Senate followed suit later in the day.

“The people have asked for it,” said Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea. “We think this will bring integrity to the system. You have to show a photo ID for everything you do in life nowadays.” The voter ID legislation was very popular with the public, he added, with more than 70 percent in favor of it, according to polls.

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Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin had a less optimistic view of the bill.

“It continues to raise red flags in the way that it was written, and in the consequences, intended and unintended,” Poppe said. “I think we’re going to have continued debates about this.”

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton expressed similar concerns.

“This is a partisan amendment based on a false premise that voter fraud is a significant problem in Minnesota,” he said in a Wednesday statement. “I cannot support a constitutional amendment that is pushed through the legislative process by only one political party — and neither should Minnesotans if they see it on the ballot this fall.”

College students, overseas military members, senior citizens and people with disabilities would all potentially face difficulties voting under the law, Poppe said. For everyone to acquire the necessary ID to vote could also become costly. If voters themselves aren’t charged, the state will have to pick up the tab, she said.

“It appears as though we won’t be able to have same-day registration,” Poppe said.

She said the bill does not need to be signed by Dayton. The governor lacks the legal power to veto a constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature.

“The issue is pretty simple: Are you who you say you are when you go to vote,” said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.

Republican Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake, said current Minnesota election laws make it “easy to vote, easy to cheat.” She said requiring a photo ID would make it harder to cheat.

But Tuesday night, Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, said the amendment would disenfranchise eligible voters who lack photo IDs. He said this would be the “first time in Minnesota history” that a constitutional amendment would pass on a “100 percent partisan vote.”

The House and Senate had each passed the bill previously, but needed to hammer out differences between the bills in a Conference Committee, Murray said. The committee adopted a compromise version of the legislation Monday night, and the negotiators finished signing it Tuesday morning.

The question to voters will read: “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 to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

The question would appear on the November ballot with another proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“Voters will go to the polls in November and will decide whether they want to incorporate this and make that a permanent part of the constitution,” Murray said. Legislators will work on specifics next year if the constitution is amended.