Conferees reach agreement on voter ID bill


A plan to require voters to show government-issued photo ID might be just a couple of floor votes away from being placed on this November’s ballot.

Members of a conference committee reached an agreement on HF2738*/ SF1577. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), the bill proposes amending the state’s constitution so that voters would have to present an approved photo ID card at their polling place on Election Day. If approved by a majority of voters, it would fall on the next Legislature to pass enabling legislation spelling out exactly how the photo ID requirement would be implemented.

Conferees voted to adopt a conference report that contains some key differences from the versions passed by the House and Senate. These include:

  • removing language added on the Senate floor that would have allowed for technologies “equivalent” to photo ID to meet the necessary requirements;
  • requiring “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification” for absentee and mail-in voters (previous versions referred to “eligibility verification” only); and
  • a substantially shorter ballot question than had been proposed by the Senate.

The committee allowed a limited amount of public testimony on the bill. Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) and Sen. John Howe (R-Red Wing), neither of whom is on the conference committee, took the opportunity to express concerns about the bill.

Simon, who opposes a photo ID requirement, said the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment was vague in several places and would invite court challenges. Howe said he supports photo ID, but he’s worried that the enabling legislation might end up being different from what the bill’s supporters envision.

“We all hope that we’re going to be back to determine what that is, but we may not,” Howe said.

Beth Fraser, director of governmental affairs for the Office of the Secretary of State, said the language in the conference report is “worse than the language in either of the previous two bills.” She said the proposal might inadvertently end same-day voter registration and absentee voting in the state. She said up to one million voters could be disenfranchised.

Newman responded by calling her claims “patently inaccurate,” and said more voters would participate in the democratic process if they had more faith in the accuracy of the system.

“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is improve the election integrity of our state,” Newman said.

If the House and Senate both vote to adopt the conference report and re-pass the bill, the question would be put directly to the voters on this year’s General Election ballot. The question is worded as follows:

“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?”