Senate passes its version of the voter ID amendment

The bill would ask voters whether people should be required to show a photo ID at the polls.

Protestors of the Senate voter ID bill chant,

Protestors of the Senate voter ID bill chant, “Vote no!” at legislators as they leave the Senate chambers on Friday at the Capitol. The bill was passed 36-30 almost strictly down party lines.

Nick Sudheimer

After passing in the state Senate on Friday night, Minnesota is just a hurdle away from having the voter ID constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The amendment, which would require people to present photo identification to vote, passed 36-30 after roughly six hours of debate in the Senate. All “yes” votes came from Republicans. One Republican voted with every Democratic-Farmer-Labor senator in voting “no.”

Since the Senate version is slightly different from the House version that passed earlier this week, House and Senate negotiators will have to reconcile minor differences in a conference committee between the two and adopt a final version. The House could also choose to accept the different language in the Senate bill.

Once it clears that final step, it will go before voters in November.

Gov. Mark Dayton cannot veto a constitutional amendment.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said it’s necessary in order to prevent election fraud and ensure that elections are legitimate.

Opponents said that there are few instances of voter fraud in Minnesota and that any photo ID requirement could disenfranchise thousands of people, including students.

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, said the requirement would essentially end same-day voter registration, which is popular among Minnesota voters, because the secretary of state “would not be able to verify a person’s identity fast enough to allow people to vote the same day.”

“We will have very little choice but to eliminate same-day voter registration as a result of this legislation,” Torres Ray said.

DFLers said more than 500,000 Minnesota voters used same-day registration in 2008.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who oversees the state’s elections and opposes the photo ID requirement, has said he has concerns the amendment will kill same-day registration, and the possibility for a new system of provisional voting will harm the state’s election system because voting tallies could be delayed.

Provisional ballots aren’t counted until voters make a second trip to election officials with a required government-issued ID. Provisional ballots don’t currently exist in Minnesota.

DFLers offered numerous amendments to the requirement, but none passed.

An amendment from Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, that would allow future legislators to use new technology for identification purposes, overwhelmingly passed.

Before the Senate debate started, roughly 300 people protested the proposed amendment with signs saying, “All our voices count,” taping $1 bills over their mouths to signify their belief that corporate interests were stealing the public’s voice, and singing hymns that echoed throughout the Capitol.

If it makes it to the ballot and voters approve the amendment, Newman said the Legislature would have to take up some of the details of the bill next year to implement a system.

He admitted that “some burden will be placed on our citizens,” but he remained confident that the amendment will improve Minnesota’s election system.

“On balance, I believe this amendment is the right thing to do,” he said.