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Dayton and Ritchie again tout electronic poll books as Voter ID alternative

Gov. Mark Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie demonstrated what electronic poll books would look like.

DFL lawmakers and Minnesota election officials today again touted electronic poll books as a middle-ground solution that addresses Republican concerns about voter identification without adding another constitutional amendment to the November ballot.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie renewed their calls for electronic poll books at a press conference Thursday afternoon and demonstrated what they would look like.

The system essentially links polling places to the state driver’s license database, allowing election officials to view photos of voters in the precinct.

Democrats say the books, which could also be printed to avoid requiring a computer, are a good way to bridge the gap between their position and the Republican amendment.

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If a voter’s photo isn’t in a database, Ritchie also showed off a device – one that Dayton joked looked a lot like an electronic pull tab machine – that could scan student IDs. He also said that elections officials could easily take photos of nursing home residents who aren’t in the system.

“We would not disenfranchise anybody,” he said.

But Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, whose Voter ID amendment today received its first House hearing this session, told the Associated Press that Ritchie’s poll book proposal is unacceptable.

Ritchie criticized the GOP Voter ID measures because he says they have the potential to disenfranchise voters and could be far more costly than his electronic poll books.

Unlike the constitutional amendment process, which some groups estimate could cost more than $80 million over three years to implement, Ritchie said he could have his system in place this November for $200,000.

“We believe this is a solution that takes a very small investment, but an investment that takes us into the future,” Ritchie said.

The secretary of state counts 84,000 voters who don’t have photo IDs, but some of their photos could still be in state databases, allowing for a potentially easier way to increase election integrity.

Still, though, Republican proponents of a Voter ID amendment say that electronic poll books don’t address their specific concerns — that voters need to prove that they are who they say they are.

Dayton and DFL lawmakers couldn’t say whether their proposal could supplant a Voter ID amendment. Ritchie has floated the idea in multiple committee hearings, but so far the idea hasn’t gotten much serious consideration from Republicans.

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“We don’t know right now,” Rep. Ryan Winkler said, “the point is to offer an alternative.”