Voter ID amendment heard by first committee


A proposal to let Minnesotans vote on whether to require government-issued photo identification cards for voters had its first committee hearing.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) sponsors HF2738 that proposes amending the state’s constitution to require photo ID for voting. The House Government Operations and Elections Committee took testimony on the bill, recessed and is scheduled to take up the bill again later tonight.

Kiffmeyer said a photo ID requirement would ensure the integrity of the state’s elections as well as the opportunity for all eligible voters to cast their ballots. She said that while voting is sacred, a voter’s identity is not.

“Who you are and where you live is a matter of the public right to know,” Kiffmeyer said.

The Legislature passed a voter ID requirement in 2011, but Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it. Kiffmeyer’s bill would put the question directly to voters, bypassing the governor’s approval. Under the delete-all amendment offered by Kiffmeyer, the following question would be posed to voters on this November’s ballot:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification on election day and that the state provide free identification to eligible voters?”

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.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie testified in opposition to the bill. He said approximately 84,000 Minnesotans currently vote who do not possess a current photo ID. He also said the 550,000 Minnesotans who currently register on Election Day would now be forced to cast a provisional ballot. Based on experiences in other states, he said one-third of those provisional ballots might not be counted.

“This procedure is a radical change to our election system and I think we need to think about it carefully,” he said.

Kiffmeyer said the bill would allow those who vote by absentee ballot to continue doing so, with no additional identification requirements. Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said that would create two different ID verification standards. He said bill was “inviting legal challenges.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) said he feared the bill would spark an “arms race” of partisan constitutional amendments.

“If you do this, there will be very little restraint or no restraint the next time Democrats control the House and Senate,” Simon said.

Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) sponsors the companion, SF1577, which awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.