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Voter ID amendment approved

Published (5/6/2011)
By Nick Busse
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Secretary of State Mark Ritchie testifies before the House Government Operations and Elections Committee April 29 on a bill that proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would require voters to present photo identification prior to receiving a ballot. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Minnesotans may get to decide whether voters must show valid photo identification before casting their ballot.

Sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), HF1597 would propose an amendment to the state constitution that would require all voters to present a valid government-issue photo ID. If passed by the House and Senate, the measure would be put to the voters as a question on the 2012 general election ballot.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill April 29 on a 7-5 party-line vote and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee. There is no Senate companion.

“This is a strong, strong will-of-the-people issue,” Kiffmeyer said. “It is fair to take it to the people and let them have a direct say.”

During more than three hours of debate, opponents argued that no hard evidence exists of voter identification fraud in the state. Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said the amendment would likely be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in court.

“You should want to know the facts before you start abridging somebody’s fundamental right,” Winkler said.

At least one Republican expressed concerns. Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) said he supported a photo ID requirement, but noted that other states have passed laws — not constitutional amendments — for voter ID.

“Putting this to a constitutional question is not a given,” Beard said.

The bill would ask voters in the 2012 general election to answer yes or no to the following question:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require that all voters present an approved form of photographic identification prior to voting; all voters be subject to identical eligibility verification standards regardless of the time of their registration; and the state provide at no charge an approved photographic identification to eligible voters?”

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