Senate passage means voter ID amendment heads to November ballot

One Republican joined all DFL senators in voting against the measure.

John Hageman

 

 

The Minnesota state Senate passed the contentious voter ID amendment Wednesday 35-29, ensuring that the question will go before voters in November.

The House repassed the bill early Wednesday morning after both chambers passed their respective versions of the bill late last month. A conference committee cleared up language differences between the two bills Monday.

On Nov. 6, voters will weigh in on the question: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

Because the amendment leaves some technical questions out, it will be up to the next Legislature to determine how to implement the change if it should pass.

One Republican senator, Jeremy Miller of Winona, joined all Democratic-Farmer-Labor party members in voting “no.”

Pennsylvania became the 16th state to pass a law requiring a photo ID at the polls when Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill March 14. Besides Minnesota and Pennsylvania, 12 other states this year tried or are trying to pass a similar requirement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

During about three hours of floor debate Wednesday, DFLers echoed many of the same arguments they’ve brought up through the committee process. Several said that students, along with soldiers overseas, the elderly, homeless and disabled would be disenfranchised.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said students who move from their dorm mid-semester or list their permanent address as their parent’s would have a difficult time voting.

“I think the bottom line is that we all know that this bill will disenfranchise people,” he said.

Most Republicans support the amendment as a means to ensure election integrity.

“[Voting] is a right people take very seriously,” said Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel. “It is a right to vote once.”

Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, whose district includes the University of Minnesota, said she’s concerned students may not go through the trouble of changing addresses on their ID in order to vote, as students tend to move frequently.

“You might not change that driver’s license in June because you are going to change it again in September,” Dziedzic said. “It’s a concern because that all adds up.”

Mitch Menigo, a University student and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group representative, said the group plans to advocate for all students and will back any potential legal battles over the amendment.

The group is in the beginning stages of planning some education events that will be featured on college campuses around the state, including the University.

Menigo said MPIRG will connect the voter ID amendment with the recently passed same-sex marriage amendment, to form a “Vote No in November” campaign.

Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, added an “or equivalent” amendment to the bill when the Senate originally passed it March 23, which would allow future legislators to consider new technologies.

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, made a failed attempt to send the bill back to conference committee, partly because Howe’s amendment was missing by the time it came to the Senate Wednesday. The Senate passed Howe’s amendment 63-3 the first time around.

Bill sponsor Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said that provision would add too much ambiguity to the state constitution.

Although it didn’t contain his amendment, Howe voted for the measure.

Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said if problems come up with the requirement, legislators will have to pose another constitutional amendment to voters to make a change.

“Does that really make any sense?” he said.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who opposes the requirement, cannot veto a constitutional amendment, as he did to similar legislation last year.

“I cannot support a constitutional amendment that is pushed through the legislative process by only one political party — and neither should Minnesotans if they see it on the ballot this fall,” Dayton said in a statement.

The photo amendment question will appear alongside the ban on same-sex marriage amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot. They will be the 10th and 11th constitutional amendments on the ballot in Minnesota since 1990. Of those, only one — a 1994 amendment to allow off-track betting on horse races — was voted down by Minnesotans, according to the secretary of state.

If a majority of Minnesotans approve the amendment in November, the state would join Mississippi to become the second state with a photo ID requirement passed via constitutional amendment.

A Missouri judge struck down a voter ID amendment passed by state lawmakers last year. The Missouri Legislature is currently working on a new constitutional amendment.