Voter ID bill heads to governor’s desk

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Gov. Mark Dayton will have his say on a plan to require all Minnesotans to present a valid photo identification card before voting.

Sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), HF210/ SF509* would require all voters to present a valid government-issued photo ID with their current address before casting their ballots. Limited exceptions would be made for college students and those in nursing homes, battered women’s shelters and similar facilities.

The House re-passed the bill 74-58 as amended by a conference committee. The Senate re-passed it 37-25 on May 18. It now goes to the governor for action.

Overall, the bill is intended to boost the integrity of elections. In addition to requiring photo ID, it would provide that voters without an ID could cast a provisional ballot. The ballot would be counted if they verify their identity to local authorities within seven days after an election. The practice of vouching as a means of same-day registration would be eliminated.

Voters without a current photo ID could apply for a free voter ID card from the state, under the provisions. The bill would also provide for a system of electronic polling place rosters to replace the current paper-based system; however, adoption of the new rosters would be optional to each local government.

Opponents argue a photo ID requirement would make voting difficult for senior citizens, the disabled, college students and certain other groups. Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) likened it to a poll tax similar to those used to prevent black Americans from voting in the late 19th century.

“In my mind, it’s not so much about the integrity of the voting process, but how do we disenfranchise a group of people?” she said.

House members put aside concerns raised about the drafting of the bill’s language by a conference committee. Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) alleged that the public was not given adequate notice of the committee’s activities, and that committee members did not take proper action to adopt provisions of the conference report. Kiffmeyer agreed to lay the bill over May 20; however, after an investigation, she said nonpartisan staff judged the conferees’ actions to be appropriate and within the established rules.