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St. Paul, Minnesota – On a party-line vote, the House Republican majority passed HF 2738 which would add another constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot to require Minnesotans to show a government-issued photo identification (ID) in order to vote.
State Representative Carlos Mariani (DFL – St. Paul) expressed great concern with the bill and hopes that Minnesotans won’t be scared into giving up their most precious right when voting on the amendment in the fall.
“Instead of limiting the right to vote, our nation’s history has been one of expanding that right – to former slaves, to women, to African Americans and Mexican Americans. But this goes in the opposite direction and does so in the state with the nation’s highest voter turnout and with the cleanest election laws"
Noting that the right to vote is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy, Rep. Mariani expressed belief that government should not lightly get in the way of that right.
“It should be the duty of our government to have to show whether an American does not have the right to vote. To do otherwise is to grant our government powers it was never intended to have”
Rep. Mariani also expressed concern with the impacts this limitation on rights could have on certain communities, particularly low income, elderly people and people of color who struggle to obtain ID documents. He notes that the Brennan Center for Justice estimates 11% of Americans do not possess a “proper” ID, including 25% of African Americans.
“The specter of resuscitating poll taxes based on requiring an ID is frightening,” said Rep. Mariani.
In several hours of debate, Democrats tried to amend the bill to fix obvious problems with the bill, such as whether free ID’s would apply to all citizens and how to count provisional ballots, but these were rebuffed by the Republican majority.
“Putting this kind of language before the people is poor governing and reveals why we govern through statutes and not through the Constitution. Statutes allow us to simply fix unintended consequences. Inserting this into our state constitution is like writing with permanent ink—it will be incredibly difficult to reverse even if it harms the people.”