Voter photo ID measure closer to ballot; Sieben opposes, Kriesel supportsShowing photo identification before voting may be inconvenient, but the senator sponsoring a proposal to require voter photo ID says it is worth it. Others say it is creating barriers.
By: Don Davis, South Washington County Bulletin
ST. PAUL — Showing photo identification before voting may be inconvenient, but the senator sponsoring a proposal to require voter photo ID says it is worth it.
“I will willingly admit that there is some burden placed on some of our citizens in exercising their right to vote,” Sen. Scott Newman said Friday before Minnesota senators voted 36-30 mostly along party lines to require photo IDs. “On balance, I believe this (constitutional) amendment is the right thing to do.”
The bill will go to Minnesota voters in the Nov. 6 election if House and Senate negotiators can work out minor differences between the versions they passed last week.
The Republican-backed proposal is to insert the requirement into the state Constitution. Senators debated the issue five hours after the House earlier last week spent nine hours on the measure.
With hundreds of anti-photo ID protesters shouting outside the Senate chambers, Newman began the debate discussing numerous news accounts of voter fraud across Minnesota.
Voter fraud could be avoided if a photo ID is required, Newman said. Also, the Hutchinson Republican said, the plan would modernize the election system and “safeguard voter confidence.”
Democrats said the policy would be problematic.
“It is a bad idea to create barriers to voting,” Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said.
She said that the way Newman’s bill is written it would eliminate election day voter registration. Newman disagreed, but said a same-day registrant would be required to produce an ID later before a ballot is counted.
Ballots that are counted after election day would make election outcomes uncertain for days or weeks, Democrats said.
Democrats said there is little evidence of voter fraud and requiring photo IDs would mean elderly, those in nursing homes, homeless and other disadvantaged Minnesotans may not vote.
Republicans said since the proposal requires the state to provide free photo IDs that is not a valid argument.
However, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said people such as those who live in the state’s five veterans’ homes cannot get out to obtain a photo ID.
“The fact that our veterans are not going to be able to vote bothers me quite a bit.” Bakk said.
Senators rejected on a 36-30 vote a Bakk proposal that exempted veterans’ home residents from the photo ID requirement.
Rural Democratic senators said they worry that photo ID could kill mail-in voting in their areas. Republicans rejected a proposal to remove the photo ID requirement on mail votes.
Senators accepted 63-3 a GOP amendment to allow for “an equivalent” for a government-issued photo ID to be used, an attempt to accept new technology not known about today and to accept IDs from places like private colleges.
Republican Reps. John Kriesel of Cottage Grove and Denny McNamara of Hastings supported the House bill.
Kriesel called it one the most important votes he has taken in the Legislature.
“The core issue here is election integrity,” Kriesel told the Bulletin. “The reality of the bill is it protects the interests of the state and its election system. Minnesotans deserve to have the utmost confidence in our election system, and photo ID makes sure that only those eligible to vote are the ones deciding the outcome of our elections.”
Kriesel said it is common sense to require a photo ID when voting because that is required for many routine transactions. He said a free ID will be provided to a voter who does not have one.
Davis reports for the Bulletin and other Forum Communications Co. newspapers.