State legislators will square off in on-campus voter ID debate


The University of Minnesota’s debate team is hosting a debate about the possibility of a state-mandated voter ID requirement Thursday.

The debate will feature four current state legislators: Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis; Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville and Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.

According to a press release for the event, the controversy surrounding voter ID laws is “relevant to students, as these laws could prevent them from voting where they attend school.”

The state Legislature passed a bill in May that would require Minnesotans to show a photo ID at the polls, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton after the session ended. Kiffmeyer authored the bill in the House of Representatives.

“The three most important elements of elections are accessibility, accuracy and integrity,” Kiffmeyer wrote in a press release after her bill passed the House. “This is a common sense bill that protects and enhances those elements.”

Kiffmeyer also introduced a bill that would put the question on the 2012 ballot as a constitutional amendment, but the bill didn’t pass before the legislative session ended.

All told, legislatures in 20 states introduced bills that would institute the ID requirement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fourteen states have passed laws requiring photo ID to vote, and another 16 require some form of identification.

Under Kiffmeyer’s proposal, people lacking valid IDs on Election Day can cast a provisional ballot that would not be counted unless they supplied the required items within seven days.

Jeremy Reichenberger, president of College Democrats at the University of Minnesota, said that many students are likely unaware of what the voter ID requirement would mean for them.

“I think the voter ID law would make it much more difficult for students to vote in this area,” he said. 

The proposal would also eliminate vouching in Minnesota, a way to prove residency for on-site registration on Election Day.

In November 2010, members of the University group Students Organizing for America, a group aligned with the Democratic Party, were asked to leave a polling place when a precinct judge suspected them for improper vouching during the gubernatorial race. Several group members were discovered vouching for neighborhood residents that they did not personally know.

The debate will take place on the West Bank campus at 7 p.m. in Willey Hall. A question and answer portion of the event will be included.