Minnesota may bypass governor on voter ID law

MINNEAPOLIS Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:28pm EDT

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MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minnesota's Republican-led legislature on Wednesday advanced plans to bypass Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and let voters decide if the state should adopt a controversial voter photo ID requirement that he rejected last year.

The state House early on Wednesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would require photo IDs at the polls and a Senate committee voted on Wednesday afternoon to advance a proposed amendment to the full Senate.

The votes, both on party lines, put Minnesota and its closely divided electorate squarely within a national movement by Republican-controlled state legislatures to enact more restrictive voter ID laws. Democrats contend that the laws are aimed at keeping their supporters such as minorities and the elderly from the polls.

If voters approve, Minnesota would be the second state to adopt a voter photo ID requirement by constitutional amendment. Mississippi voters approved a voter ID ballot initiative in 2011 that has not yet taken effect.

Several states have enacted voter photo ID laws since the start of 2011 including Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and Pennsylvania, though the U.S. Justice Department has blocked the Texas law and a state judge has blocked the Wisconsin law.

Thirty states have laws requiring voters to show at least some type of identification to vote in November, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Republican supporters have said voter ID laws were needed to prevent voter fraud. Opponents say the law addressed a problem that does not exist and would restrict voting by students, the elderly and the homeless, groups seen as more likely to support Democrats.

If approved by the Minnesota Legislature, the proposed amendment would go before voters in the November election, bypassing Dayton, who vetoed a voter photo ID bill that state lawmakers approved last year.

"Right now we have a system that is weak in the area of voter registration, lots of access, but very weak on integrity in the voter registration process," Republican Representative Mary Kiffmeyer said at the opening of discussion on Tuesday.

"We should have an upfront openness, transparency and honesty in the voter registration process," Kiffmeyer said.

Kiffmeyer also said the amendment would continue to allow same-day voter registration, absentee-voting, senior voting, mail-in balloting, and access to voting for college students and members of the military.

Democrats offered several changes to the proposal that were rejected and House minority leader Paul Thissen said lawmakers should be focused on jobs, not constitutional amendments.

"Amending the constitution should only be done when absolutely necessary to accomplish a goal, not because you can, not because it feels good, not because you have the votes, not because you feel passionately about an issue," Democratic Representative Steve Simon said.

Minnesota's electorate has been closely divided in recent years, leading to expensive recounts in elections won by Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken in 2008 and Dayton in 2010.

The voter ID question would join a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Minnesota on the ballot.

Republican lawmakers also are considering asking voters in November to decide whether Minnesota should join 23 other states in adopting a "right to work" law that would allow workers in unionized businesses to opt out of paying union dues.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Daniel Trotta)

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Comments (2)
ray_allen wrote:
Despite what Indiana legislators calim,requiring a photo id is a barrier to voting.

There have been instances here where nursing home residents who had no need for a goverment issued photo id were denied the right to vote because the didn’t have a government issued photo id.

This reminds me of another knee jerk reaction and power grab by fearful government bureaucrats like the unPatriotic Act.

Mar 21, 2012 6:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BlueHubbub wrote:
This is a classic example of false equivalence in reporting—it’s what’s wrong with the media today. Your reporter’s take on this story is essentially “the Republicans say this, the Democrats say that,” which gives equal weight to both sides. To quote from the story, “Opponents say the law addressed a problem that does not exist.” Actually, the facts clearly support what the Democrats are saying. The non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law said in its report “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” (http://www.truthaboutfraud.org/index.html) “There have been a handful of substantiated cases of individual ineligible voters attempting to defraud the election system. But by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” But somebody reading your article would think that there’s legitimacy to both sides’ claim, because of how the story was written. The Brennan Center report also states “The voter fraud phantom drives policy that disenfranchises actual legitimate voters, without a corresponding actual benefit.” These laws are very thinly disguised voter suppression. So c’mon Reuters, start reporting the facts. I also address this issue in the following blog post: http://bluehubbub.blogspot.com/2012/03/false-equivalence-alert.html

Mar 22, 2012 6:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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