GOP’s Voter ID bill passes hurdle on party-line vote

GOP’s Voter ID bill passes hurdle on party-line vote

Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and supporters of Voter ID in Minnesota scored their first committee victory today, passing a complex omnibus election law bill that, among other things, requires photo IDs of all voters at polling places.

The measure also would limit vouching for new voters and institute an electronic poll book system that many election officials say is unworkable and expensive.

Kiffmeyer, now a Republican House member from Big Lake, called the committee passage of House File 210 “very satisfying … I think this is an idea whose time has come. We’ve had our first successful vote in Minnesota today, and that is good news.”

She said it’s the first time a Voter ID bill has ever made it out of committee in either chamber of the Minnesota Legislature.

It passed the House Government Operations and Elections Committee along party lines — all nine Republicans on the committee voted yes, all six DFLers voted no — but it is a long way from becoming law.

The bill now moves to the House State Government Finance Committee, where its fiscal implications will be examined.

Some DFLers have said the full bill — which includes requiring photo IDs for all voters and installing a statewide network for Election Day operations — could cost as much as $40 million, with many of the costs drilled down to the counties.

Kiffmeyer disputed the high costs today, but no fiscal notes have been developed by any agency.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s State of the State Speech on Wednesday will likely push back such complex policy bills for a while as both parties in both chambers dig in for what’s certain to be a vigorous budget debate that will be previewed by Dayton’s speech. His budget is set to be released next Tuesday.

In the end, DFLers believe that Voter ID supporters, including Kiffmeyer, are more likely to settle for the passage of House File 89, which is exclusively a photo ID bill; it is cleaner than what the DFLers call the “bloated” HF 210, which is 30 pages long and essentially redoes much of Minnesota’s voting rules by next year.

Kiffmeyer wouldn’t concede such maneuvering after today’s hearing but didn’t shoot it down either.

“We never know the conclusion of the Legislature and the issues that may be addressed,” she said. “Or should there be a combination of the two [bills]? That’s a legislative possibility.”

She added that she didn’t expect to gain any support from the DFL.

“What we really see is that Secretary of State [Mark] Ritchie and the Democrats are just plain opposed to Voter ID,” she said.

The vote today came at the end of a two-hour hearing that included gut-wrenching testimony from disabled and blind people who worried about some provisions limiting personal assistance when they vote.

It also came after a pointed presentation from Ritchie, who vigorously opposed Voter ID and wondered what the problem was: After all, there is very limited real evidence of voter fraud in Minnesota, and the state’s voter turnout continues to lead the nation, with nearly 80 percent of citizens voting. Wisconsin is second.

“We can’t beat ’em in football, but we can beat ‘em in voting,” the secretary of state said.

Ritchie also noted that previous governors, such as Arne Carlson and Tim Pawlenty, approved elections law changes but only those that were supported in a bipartisan way by the Legislature. Clearly, Voter ID is not backed by the DFL.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, pointed to the state’s Constitution, particularly Article VII, and noted that with few exceptions – felons, the “insane” – people 18 and older “shall be entitled to vote.” There is no mention of needing a photo ID.

Winkler and others who testified raised the specter of lawsuits if any Voter ID bill were passed and were signed by Gov. Dayton. But Dayton has suggested he is opposed to Voter ID, calling it “largely a solution in search of a problem.”

The matter of electronic poll books was raised, with Winkler offering an amendment to delete the provision, which technology experts and many state election officials believe is too expensive and unreliable. But that, too, was defeated 9-6 on a party-line vote.

Key opponents to the Kiffmeyer bill — such as Winkler and Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Minneapolis — sit on the State Government Finance Committee, too, and will be questioning the costs of any comprehensive Voter ID and electronic poll book system.

The Government Operations committee is set to consider the simpler HF 89 on Wednesday. 

Winkler, Simon and Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) are expected to seek several amendments that would not only toughen penalties for illegal voting and illegal registering but also for illegal interference with legitimate voting. The amendments also would allow early voting options, including “no excuse” absentee voting.

But, if party-line votes occur again, those amendments wouldn’t pass.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Steve Waage on 02/08/2011 - 05:27 pm.

    Funny how we never heard a peep about this burning need to suppress voting by students, minorities and old people when Kiffmeyer was Minnesota Secretary of State. It looks like the new Rupublican legislators are focused like a laser on their own jobs … jobs … jobs.

  2. Submitted by Heather Miller on 02/08/2011 - 05:37 pm.

    OK, I guess some of our legislature cannot accept that some of our population, with FULL voting rights, are entitled to vote. My mother is disabled, she does not drive and is beginning to have difficulty with her signature. I guess according to Ms. Kiffmeyer, she should not vote. She has a state ID, but as her signature changes, can they allow her to vote, shes 56 and legally allowed to vote. As are many, many impoverished, handicapped (as my mother), of age without a drivers license (I know quite a few), and especially our homeless. As I know from experience, a birth certificate can cost some big bucks (though not for some, but for someone unemployed before a new SS card was needed, it’s pricey). For someone who is homeless, unemployed or on disability, It can be a financial impossibility. And for those in nursing Homes, retirement communities, and relying on very little to pay to vote, its a real impossibility. Why exclude these LEGAL voters? Please explain……..

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/08/2011 - 06:14 pm.

    Three points, all of which have been made in previous comments to previous posts on this issue:

    1. There’s no evidence of significant voter fraud in Minnesota elections. None. This is not only a solution in search of a problem, it’s fear-mongering demagoguery at its worst.

    2. Even if the cost is half of what’s mentioned in Jay’s piece, it would still be $20 million in a biennium when the “laser focus” of the new GOP majority was loudly announced to be cutting spending as a means to address the $6.2 billion deficit. Where will the $20 million, or $40 million, or whatever millions, come from?

    3. Voting is a right. It’s not a privilege. Restrictions on rights will not be viewed kindly by state and federal courts – in one of which I predict this idea will soon be presented, should it become law. The same people who decry restrictions on 2nd Amendment rights now want to place restrictions on a right equally basic? When there’s zero evidence of the necessity of those restrictions? What happened to all the talk of freedom and democracy and “small government?”

    To the many pseudonyms for hypocrisy should now be added “Kiffmeyer.”

  4. Submitted by Carol Flynn on 02/08/2011 - 06:52 pm.

    Just as airport screening treats everyone as a potential terrorist; voter ID treats everyone as a potential felon.

    Our problem is that too many people choose not to vote at all.

  5. Submitted by myles spicer on 02/08/2011 - 07:28 pm.

    This debacle, combined with the right wing SCOTUS decision on Citizens United, is tearing the very fabric of what makes Democracy work — free, fair, and accessible voting for ALL citizens.

    It has ominous potential for our great nation’s electoral process in the future. It must not be allowed to stand.

  6. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 02/08/2011 - 08:53 pm.

    This is not surprising, as Kiffmeyer was one of the original leaders, COO I think, of the white supremacist group Minnesota Majority. As the Republican party grasps onto the last straws of it’s old, established, white male power, you will see more desperate acts like this. The Republican party cannot survive as our country becomes more diverse. This will make them cling to power ever harder.

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/09/2011 - 08:42 am.

    Please, let us move into the 21st century when it comes to voting. Mary K, thank you for introducing this modern and enlightened approach to voting.

    Those who appose this are probably members of the “DFL flat-earth society” and are also apposed to the new Stillwater Bridge and new nuclear power plants. Also, they are probably more concerned about politics than making every vote count.

  8. Submitted by bernie hesse on 02/09/2011 - 08:50 am.

    The GOP house is in a spiral with its own members unable to control their urges in regards to hot button issues. I thought they would focus on jobs and show us how they are on task, instead they are moving us to more government intrusion, more poor bashing, and more hand-outs to the rich. The photo id bill is just plan bad policy and a page out of the national GOP playbook.

  9. Submitted by Eric T on 02/09/2011 - 10:03 am.

    Aside from the lack of focus on jobs jobs jobs as others have mentioned…

    For me, the most objectionable clause of this bill is the limitations on assistance for the disabled. I don’t find the requirement to provide photo ID to be that objectionable. It’s probably true that voter fraud is not a big problem, and this requirement is a solution looking for a problem. But I’ve always thought it was strange to not show any sort of identification to vote, even if voting is a right.

    Some point out that the photo ID may disenfranchised the poor, many of whom don’t carry ID’s. I think that’s true, and I could empathize with that. But there’s some responsibilities that are required from citizens. Being able to identify yourself to vote, and to provide documents to register to vote, even if voting is a right, might be one of these responsibilities.

    Keep in mind that the photo ID requirement is simply needed to establish identification. The photo ID is not used to establish residency or the right to vote. The voter registration process establishes residency and the right to vote.

  10. Submitted by Jean Sanford on 02/09/2011 - 10:31 am.

    Yes, there is fraud in Minnesota voting. I noticed that no one mentioned the overvote. All those postcards returned to the counties for people that registered between Jan. 1 and the voting date for non-existant names and addresses. All those ballots that count equal to mine the instant they are entered into the electronic counter. It is called the Overvote. This is fraud. Sec. of State Ritchie stated in the StarTribune in 2009 that the 2008 election had 35,000 overvotes. Fraudulent ballots counted the day of election that are not identified to any name or address in the precincts.

    Who would have thought it. I don’t care about the percentage of voters. The Voter List has the same person listed multiple times at addresses they USE TO live at, but it still counts them as having voted each voting cycle at each address. So how do you come up with the percentage???

    We can’t just keep drinking the Koolaid.

  11. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 02/09/2011 - 12:05 pm.

    I attended this hearing and was appalled by the lack of respect given to the people testifying by the Republican members of the committee. In the back of the room, Mary Kiffmeyer vigorously shook her head, mouthed “No” and even openly said “That’s wrong.” as people testified. The committee chair repeatedly cited time limits and attempted to limit questions. One DFL Rep. replied that she had the right to ask questions. Finally while some testified, the chair whispered behind her hand to a colleague openly disrespecting what the testimony. Such incivility sours the legislative process.

    On the other hand, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was on point. He, as others, asked for evidence of voter fraud. He cited a similar voter ID law in Missouri that had been overturned as being unconstitutional. Finally, he challenged a Republican Rep.’s veracity. The Rep. testified that he had “heard” of extensive voter fraud including some 10,000 ballots in the last election. Ritchie forthrightly asserted that during the recent recount media often cited the illusive “lost ballots left in the trunk of a car” even though it was a lie. In essence, “hearing” something is not verifiable evidence.

    Is it any wonder the people disrespect legislators that exhibit a casual disregard for civility and empirical evidence?

  12. Submitted by Christopher Moseng on 02/09/2011 - 12:19 pm.

    “Sec. of State Ritchie stated in the StarTribune in 2009 that the 2008 election had 35,000 overvotes.” That is, of course, not what Mr. Ritchie said. But I guess the trunk ballot story has seen enough play and it’s time to move on to another distorted urban legend to parrot until it becomes true by sheer repetition.

  13. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 02/20/2012 - 11:26 pm.

    Everything is ok.

    Don’t worry. No need to insure the integrity of our electoral system.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong here in Minnesota.

    No illegals, no disqualified voters, no mass same day registrations, nope, everything’s ok.

    Go back to sleep now.

Leave a Reply