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

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.

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.

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

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/08/2012 - 04:45 pm.

    Dayton’s lending his credibility?

    Oh, well, that’s different then. Considering the goodwill the Gov’s been banking with the legislative majority those electonic books are as good as bought and installed!

    • Submitted by Walt Cygan on 03/08/2012 - 04:59 pm.

      Snide is easy

      Can we actually have a reason why this is a bad alternative? Oh wait. It wouldn’t suppress voter turnout.

  2. Submitted by Walt Cygan on 03/08/2012 - 04:56 pm.


    Could Rep. Kiffmeyer provide a little more information about why this alternative is unacceptable?

    What I find unacceptable is asking people to vote on an amendment to the state constitution without understanding how it will be enacted, at least in general terms. What happens to day-of-election registration? How does an absentee voter have an id checked? What if you have moved and your new DL is in process? It seems like some basic answers are necessary, rather than a shrug and an “ask me after you vote”.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/08/2012 - 09:32 pm.

    The perfect

    is the enemy of the possible.
    G_d forbid that we should decrease the (already minimal) likelihood of voter fraud by an order of magnitude at a reasonable cost.

    BTW — do state legislators have to prove their identity before casting votes? Receiving paychecks?

  4. Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/09/2012 - 08:23 am.

    I wish they’d make up their minds

    “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.”

    And here I thought their specific concern was that the person voting was legally allowed to vote. Which – as has been pointed out numerous times in the past – would NOT be addressed by the implementation of a photo ID. The example being ex-felons who have photo IDs but who have not yet regained their voting rights.

    Reminds me of the time the guy was trying to teach me to play cards but kept introducing subtle changes to the rules whenever it looked like I was winning . . . . .

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