Keith Ellison unveils Voter ID opposition effort for tonight’s DFL caucuses

Rep. Keith Ellison discussing his opposition to the proposed amendment at a Monday press conference.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is the latest public figure to speak out against a proposed Minnesota Voter ID constitutional amendment.

On Monday, the 5th District Democratic congressman enlisted the help of ordinary citizens who would be most affected by the proposed requirement that they present a photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote.

He introduced a number of speakers and advocates for students, the disabled, the elderly and people of color during a Capitol press conference.

Ellison also unveiled a resolution that will be introduced at tonight’s DFL precinct caucuses that opposes the Voter ID constitutional amendment.

Republicans support the measure as a solution to voter fraud, while DFLers say voter ID laws are aimed at disenfranchising voters, rather than at stopping what they say is non-existent fraud in the system.

“What is the whole concept of trying to push voter ID?” Ellison asked. “It is about voter suppression.”

Sadik Warfa, an immigrant, said that voter ID would be a problem for his community and others who might not have access to the correct documentation.

“This amendment is really a suppression of their votes,” Warfa said. “You don’t have to fix something that isn’t broken.”

Warfa also spoke at last week’s Minnesota Senate hearing, joining about 30 others who testified that implementing such a measure would be a mistake.

Speakers at Ellison’s event echoed those concerns.

Each speaker listed ways that Voter ID would hurt people in their communities:

• Some of the elderly don’t have birth certificates required to get an ID.

• Transportation and documentation can be expensive and hard to secure.

• Students move frequently and could be from out of state.

• And mobility issues can be a struggle for those with disabilities.

“To be quite honest, I think it could only add to the disenchantment that really exists already in younger students with politics,” University of St. Thomas student Cody Baird told reporters.

Both legislative chambers passed a Voter ID bill last session through the regular legislative process, but DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it because it lacked bipartisan support.

That’s why supporters have turned to the constitutional-amendment route, which bypasses the governor.

The Voter ID measure is considered a near certainty to make it onto the 2012 ballot. State Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said on Friday that he’s confident the constitutional amendment will pass in the House and the Senate.

To Ellison, requiring a photo ID at the polls won’t solve any real issues.

“At the end of the day, dishonest people who are intent on being dishonest are going to be dishonest,” he said.

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