Voter ID measure passes first state Senate committee

The measure was passed along party lines.

Aaron DuBois

A state Senate committee passed legislation Wednesday that would allow voters to decide the voter ID debate.

If added to the November ballot and approved by voters, the state constitutional amendment would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The amendment passed the Local Government and Elections Committee along party lines 8-6 — Republican supporters claimed it would prevent voter fraud, while opponents said it would make it harder for some people to vote.

It will move to the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee.

During the hearing Wednesday, the two sides disagreed on how big a problem voter fraud is.

Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, acknowledged that requiring people to produce a valid voter ID is a burden, but legislators have to balance that extra burden “against the need to protect the integrity of our election system.”

He cited a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed an Indiana voter ID law. Newman said the proposed amendment in Minnesota would be constitutional if it didn’t put an “unreasonable burden” on voters.

Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, said the voter ID amendment wouldn’t stop felons from voting, which was cited as a major cause of voter fraud at the previous testimony Feb. 1.

Joey Dobson, a Macalester College graduate who testified on behalf of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group at the first meeting, said the amendment would make it tough for students to vote because they tend to move around a lot.

Although she wasn’t surprised by the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing, Dobson was optimistic that MPIRG can mobilize enough support to prevent the measure from appearing on the ballot.

A bill establishing a voter ID requirement was approved by the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

It was brought back this year as a constitutional amendment, which Dayton will not be able to veto.