Legislature takes up voter ID bill

If passed, the bill would require voters to present state-issued identification before voting.

Ashley Aram

Two Minnesota representatives have proposed what 26 other states already require âÄî a valid photo ID to vote. The bills, spurred by past election issues, could mean serious changes for University of Minnesota students.

Rep. Mike Benson, R- Rochester, proposed a bill that would require non-expiring voter ID cards for residents who do not have a valid state driverâÄôs license at election time.

For students who are not from Minnesota, this would mean more work and a small fee to cast their vote.

Out-of-state students who have registered to vote in Minnesota or changed their address but didnâÄôt get a new drivers license would have to get an ID that is compliant with the bill, Benson said.

“Letting people vote without a photo ID is giving the ideal conditions for undetectable fraud,” Benson said. “It is in fact very easy to impersonate someone if you donâÄôt have to prove who you are.”

His proposal, along with a similar bill from Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, will go before the Government Operations and Elections Committee on Tuesday. KiffmeyerâÄôs bill requires similar identification, but it would be issued by the Department of Public Safety without cost, she said.

Many Minnesota organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and Common Cause Minnesota, have voiced concern over how the bill would affect people who may not have a valid license, like elderly, poor, disabled and young citizens.

Democracy Matters, a student group at the University, strongly opposes the new bills, calling them “political red herrings” that are detrimental to the voter turnout of students.

“It would definitely disenfranchise students,” Democracy Matters President Tenzin Pelkyi said. “Voter fraud is a serious issue, but itâÄôs been blown out of proportion and is one that doesnâÄôt really exist on a level that the Republicans are claiming.”

Pelkyi said the photo ID requirement would be an “added burden” on students and would most definitely bring down poll numbers.

Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota said the bill is an attempt to keep students from voting. He said it will take away from citizensâÄô voting rights.

“This bill just creates so many hoops that young people have to go through in order to vote,” he said.

Both bills would bar students with IDs listing their parentsâÄô address from voting at polling places on campus.

“The big thing with this is that thereâÄôs no clear advantage,” Dean said. “If we really wanted to improve the election system there are a lot of more cost-effective ways to do it.”

But Benson said the voter IDs would cost less than a new drivers license, and change in the law is critical. He referenced problems in past elections as reasons for the bill, including issues with voter vouching in Hennepin County last election.

After the Government Operations and Elections Committee has voted on the bills, the authors must get cost estimates and present the bills to the Finance Committee.