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Proving who you say you are

Published (3/23/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer responds to a question from Rep. Ryan Winkler during March 20 debate on her bill that proposes amending the state constitution to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID card at their polling place on Election Day. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)Minnesota is one step closer to requiring voters to show a picture ID at their polling place.

On March 21, the House voted 72-62 to put a question on this November’s ballot asking Minnesotans whether a government-issued photo ID should be required for voting. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), HF2738*/ SF1577 proposes amending the state constitution so that voters would have to present an approved photo ID card at their polling place on Election Day.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

Republicans have spent years pushing for a photo ID requirement. Last year, they made it as far as the governor’s desk, where Gov. Mark Dayton dashed their hopes with a stroke of his veto pen. Now, photo ID supporters say it’s time to let voters have the last word.

“Frankly most people are shocked when they go to the polls and they pull out their driver’s license or their ID and the election judge says, ‘Oh, you don’t need that, that’s not required,’” said Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers). “They think it’s outrageous.”

Republicans argue photo ID is needed to prevent voter fraud. DFLers argue it will disenfranchise voters, particularly poor people and minorities. Each side says the other has no evidence to back up its claims.

Kiffmeyer, a former secretary of state, said Minnesota’s election system has lots of integrity when it comes to counting votes accurately, but very little when it comes to verifying that voters are who they say they are.

“Every single vote in that ballot box deserves to be counted accurately and honestly, in a fair and transparent manner,” Kiffmeyer said.

DFLers have long contended that requiring photo ID would fence certain eligible voters out of the electoral process. They argue that for some, it is an unnecessary hurdle that will discourage or prevent them from exercising their constitutional right.

“How many eligible voters have to be denied the right to vote before this is a bad bill in your eyes? What’s the number? Is it 10 students at Bethany (Lutheran College)? Is it five women in a Good Sam nursing home?” said Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter).

Others argued that voter ID is too partisan an issue to be put into the state constitution. Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) said Republicans are being irresponsible by enshrining mere policy preferences in the state’s founding document.

“You are starting an arms race that I think you will regret, because now the standard is, if you feel passionately about an issue, if your base loves it, and if it polls well, forget the legislative process, go over the head of the governor and just slap it onto the constitution,” he said.

As written, the bill would allow absentee voting to continue using the same process that’s already used. It would also allow voters to use photo IDs that don’t show their current address as long as they have some other way to prove their residency. The practice of vouching would cease to exist, and a provisional ballot system would be implemented for voters who can’t prove their identity in the polling place on Election Day.

If passed by the Senate, the proposed constitutional amendment would be the second ballot question facing voters this year. A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was passed in 2011.

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