Contentious Voter ID Hearing

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Yesterday at the State Capitol things turned from Minnesota nice to Minnesota not so nice as Rep. Steve Emmer and former Secretary of State Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, both Republicans, presented thier Voter ID Bill (HF57) to the Local Government Operations, Reform, Technology and Elections Committee.

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The bill would have required Minnesota voters to present a valid photo ID at their polling place before they could cast a vote. The bill would also have provided for provisional ballots for voters who failed to present their ID.

Both Emmer and Kiffmeyer provided testimony and statistics which were challenged by Committee Democrats including Rep. Paul Marquart who called the proposed bill “A problem looking for a solution” and called into question the integrity of the data presented by Emmer. Rep. Emmer responded by suggesting that it was getting personal and that there was a more “appropriate” place and time to have that discussion.

Witnesses included Professor Dave Shultz who sited his research showing that there was “negligible” evidence of voter fraud in Minnesota. Current Secretary of State Mark Richie supported this in his testimony saying that “Voter ID would have a zero effect on voter fraud” because he could find no cases of voter impersonation in Minnesota’s elections.

Lucky Rosenbloom from the “Council On Black Minnesotans” tesitified on behalf of the bill saying it would ensure members of the Black community would not be denied a vote because of improper identification. He compared the legitimacy of a utility bill to that of a state issued ID card. At one point he held up his Xcel energy bill, often used for verifying a voters residence, and asked committee members if anyone would like to pay it. He added that an ID would ensure a vote for people in the Black community.

In the end, the vote was along party lines with one exception, Rep. Phil Sterner – DFL who voted for the Bill. The Local Government Operations, Reform, Technology and Elections Committee voted 11-8 not to approve the bill. After the bill was defeated, many in the audience who supported the measure shouted their disapproval at Law Makers with one woman yelling “How could you do something so stupid?”

A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Koch a Buffalo Republican, awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

Video highlights of the hearing can be found at:
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