Inevitable passage of Voter ID follows 9-hour Minnesota House debate

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer

Lawmakers debated for nine hours — including four hours over a one-word amendment to Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer’s Voter ID bill — before the inevitable, and the expected, took place.

Shortly after 2 a.m. today, the Minnesota House voted along party lines 72 to 62 to place the controversial constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

This year, Republican lawmakers are using the amendment route to bypass Gov. Mark Dayton, who last session vetoed a Voter ID bill.

So far, this year’s plan has passed out of a committee in each chamber on party-line votes.

The Senate bill still has a committee stop – likely today — before it hits the floor for what’s likely to be another contentious, and repetitive, debate.

Once Republican leaders made it clear early this session that Voter ID was a priority, it has seemed only a matter of time before the issue ended up on the fall ballot.

That inevitability, though, didn’t stop House DFLers from trying to derail or weaken Voter ID provisions during Tuesday night’s debate.

DFL House members offered amendment after amendment – 15 in total. All of them were voted down.

During the debate, lawmakers from both parties put on all the theatrics they could, arguing for and against the measure.

A tweet storm started early Tuesday in anticipation of the vote, just one day after a combative Rules Committee hearing brought the proposal to the floor. Citizens opposing the measure lined the area outside the door to the House chambers, which police had blocked off.

Familiar arguments

After debate started at 5 p.m., the two sides quickly staked out their familiar positions.

“The great likelihood is we will have eligible Minnesota voters who will be prohibited from voting,” DFL Rep. Terry Morrow told his colleagues. “I honestly believe to the core of my soul that this is wrong.”

Democrats and opponents argue that the measure requiring voters to show a photo ID will disenfranchise many of the state’s poor, elderly, disabled and student voters.

 Advocates counter that Voter ID is a common-sense, widely supported way to increase election integrity in Minnesota.

“This constitutional amendment says it’ll still be easy to vote, but it’ll be hard to cheat,” Kiffmeyer told her colleagues.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean called “absurd” three of the amendments offered by DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler.

In one of his proposals, Winkler attempted to erase the Voter ID language and replace it with Gov. Mark Dayton’s jobs plan, a measure to pay back the K-12 school shift and a tax credit program.

Wiinkler called Voter ID an “absurd constitutional amendment” in response. “I thought that would make it germane to an absurd bill,” he said.

At one point, one DFLer went around the chamber and asked his colleagues if they knew him, even though they’d never seen his ID.

MinnPost photo by James NordProtesters hold signs outside of the House chamber criticizing Voter ID on Tuesday.

In the beginning, Republicans attempted to silence dissent by appealing to Speaker Kurt Zellers through the House rules, but eventually the Democrats won out, and the session stretched on.

Republicans, who often appeared bored throughout the proceedings, seemed resigned to a long night.

It soon became clear that if they couldn’t get their amendments passed, the DFLers at least were going to spend a lot of time criticizing Voter ID before a final vote.

“I already told my wife that the debate is going to go until 6 in the morning,” one GOP representative remarked to another as Kiffmeyer introduced her bill.

‘Arms race’ ahead?

DFLers warned Republicans that passing the Voter ID amendment was “the legislative equivalent of the nuclear option.”

Rep. Steve Simon, who proposed many alterations to the measure, said that Republicans might have to watch out for a deluge of constitutional amendments if Democrats regain control of the Legislature.

“This is it,” he said. “You are starting an arms race that I think you’ll regret.”

Simon pleaded with the Republicans to have “impulse control” and recall the amendment, or he said Democrats likely wouldn’t show the same restraint they have in the past when it comes to future ballot questions.

“This fight didn’t have to escalate,” he said.

“I know that all Democrats will probably vote against it and all Republicans will probably vote for it,” but pass Voter ID for the right reasons, Simon said, “not because you can, not because it feels good, not because you have the votes.”

‘Bunch of gibberish’

Democrats also criticized Kiffmeyer for not truthfully answering their questions or seriously considering their amendments.

They expressed concern that her amendment’s provisions don’t offer guidance on writing a more specific follow-up law next session. Because constitutional amendments are required to use general language when they go before voters, many of Kiffmeyer’s responses to questions were variations of “Wait till next year.”

Become a sustaining member today

However, Winkler and other legislators who are attorneys said that without specific language allowing the Legislature to create more tailored legislation, the courts would be forced to interpret the new Voter ID language.

“Your amendment causes problems that you won’t acknowledge,” Winkler said.

DFL lawmakers repeatedly criticized Kiffmeyer for her lack of specific answers to their questions about how Voter ID would affect Election Day registration and absentee and mail-in balloting. They also wanted to know how a new provisional balloting system implemented under the law would work.

“We didn’t even get a maybe,” DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier said, criticizing Kiffmeyer’s answers. “We just got a bunch of gibberish.”

Both sides also vehemently disagreed over the need for the amendment. DFLers disputed claims that widespread voter fraud exists in Minnesota, and Republicans challenged them to bring forward examples of people who would be disenfranchised.

Most of the DFL amendments dealt with specific language they said would make the bill clearer and more effective, but each one was shot down roughly along party lines.

“You had amendment after amendment to make this more reasonable, more palatable,” Simon said. “You’re firing a missile, and you’re starting a war that I believe you’re going to regret starting,”

‘The thread of my life’

Kiffmeyer, whos served as secretary of state until Mark Ritchie ousted her, is a longtime supporter of Voter ID.

“I started supporting Photo ID when I was an election judge,” she said after the amendment passed. “This is no situation of recentness by any means.”

So, to the Republican from Big Lake, criticism that her support for Voter ID stems from her place in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council rings hollow.

Kiffmeyer, who has worked as a nurse, said the late-night debate energized her. She said she’s proud of her work on election integrity, especiallyVoter ID.

“It seems the thread of my life has had a lot to do with that,” she said. “It’ll probably be a very important part of serving this Legislature,”

But her thoughts after the House had adjourned hinted at the partisan divide that the Democrats had criticized all along.

“As the evening went on, I got more and more convinced,” she said. “Though, contrary to what they were saying, those of us here, the more they did that, the more they did things, the more we felt confident. The more we were energized.”

Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 03/21/2012 - 12:32 pm.

    This was absolutely great political theater

    Some – biased – observations:

    1. There are many intelligent, caring, and impressive DFL reps. Some of them were very moving in their presentations.

    2. The stone-walling exhibited by Kiffmeyer was pathetic. Many reasonable questions about how this legislation will play out were basically ignored. This kind of behavior has become characteristic of the GOP this session.

    3. There seems to have been some sort of agreement by the GOP that there would be “no amendments.” The only one who dared go against this dictum seems to have been John Kriesel. Of course he has elected not to re-up. Smart man. The ALEC organization certainly seems to have gotten their money’s worth from the GOP this session. And of course the script for the bill was provided by Kiffmeyer who is the local Minnesota ALEC chair.

    4. I hope that a transcript of this session becomes available. It will be great fodder for the election campaign in Nov which will result in the GOP returning to the minority.

    5. No doubt there will be a long legal fight, unless the voters turn this ill-advised measure down. Seems to be unlikely due to the inherent pandering of the bill.

  2. Submitted by John Reinan on 03/21/2012 - 10:22 am.

    I do not like legislating by constitutional amendment

    I don’t even need to be for or against voter ID. I just think the bar for amending the constitution should be really, really high.

    • Submitted by Thomas Pavey on 03/21/2012 - 11:01 am.

      Exactly. The funny part is that the party that is trying to amend the constitution is the same one that calls the other party radicals and activists.

      If something cannot get passed as a normal law, then there is likely a reason. The two party system with multiple branches of government evolved for checks an balances. The other purpose of the government is to protect the weak minority from the strong majority. This proposal flies in the face of both of those protections. Using a constitutional amendment to bypass this is just plain wrong.

  3. Submitted by David Mensing on 03/21/2012 - 10:27 am.

    Legacy Amendment

    Regarding the “nuclear option”, I’ve read a few right wingers say that the Democrats started partisan amendments by sending the Legacy Amendment to the voters. I thought it was a bi-partisan attempt to continue funding for programs and projects. Which was it?

    It appears certain we’ll see a Photo ID amendment on the November ballot. I hope voters will take a second look at this proposal and see both the lack of need for such a measure and the sparse details about its enactment.

  4. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 03/21/2012 - 11:09 am.

    Representative Kiffmeyer says the Voter ID law won’t disenfranchise anyone. Where’s the research to back her up?

    There’s research to back up the claim that Voter ID will turn eligible voters away on election day. Check it out for yourself:

    This isn’t a case of he-said, she-said. One side has research to back it up, and the other side has only anecdotes. And the notion that voter suppression is only an “unintended consequence” of the Voter ID law strains credulity. The suppression of voters likely to choose the DFL is the obvious intention of this partisan bill. The governor should veto it.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/21/2012 - 02:07 pm.

      That would be excellent

      If he could veto it. That’s the point of putting it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. It gets to bypass regular lawmaking.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 03/21/2012 - 02:10 pm.


      it is a constitutional amendment and so the governor can’t veto it.

      This was the GOP’s intention.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/21/2012 - 12:37 pm.

    Robin Hood’s Barn

    My grandfather used to use a phrase I don’t hear much any more as a description for dissembling and not giving a straight answer. “All around Robin Hood’s Barn” meant, at least when he said it, that someone was simply not answering a straightforward question with a straightforward response, but instead provided all sorts of “other” arguments that were basically irrelevant.

    I’m still waiting for someone, anyone, on the Republican side of the aisle to show us, the public, why this amendment to the constitution is necessary. The last figures I saw were that there were 113 “mistaken” votes in the 2008 election – out of 2.9 million votes cast. That’s 0.0000389 percent, statistically insignificant, and hardly worth the cost of the time already spent on this solution in search of a problem, much less the cost of printing it on the ballot, counting the votes, and, assuming it passes, administering it.

    Voting is a RIGHT, not a privilege, and placing obstacles in the path of exercising one’s rights is something no one – especially those who claim to be “conservative” – should tolerate. That those who claim to be “conservative” seem to be in lock-step behind this proposal, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that something else is at work here. I don’t *know* that voter suppression among those likely to vote DFL is the real agenda, but it’s certainly plausible. In my household, all that does is further damage the already-damaged reputation of the GOP.

  6. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 03/21/2012 - 03:21 pm.

    Of course it passed.

    Voter ID is on top of the corporate wish list. We know where the GOP gets its marching orders.

  7. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 03/21/2012 - 03:45 pm.

    damaging reputation

    Showing photo ID is a ubiquitous activity, something that even DFLers do on a regular basis. It doesn’t hurt them, and they know it. DFLers should be careful they don’t damage their reputations by making it appear they want the option to cheat in an election if they feel it is necessary. Honestly, if DFLers actually know someone who doesn’t have photo ID, be a Good Samaritan and help them get it, Give them a ride to the courthouse or assist them. Don’t just wait for Gov. Dayton or the other DFL officials to help them for you. Help them yourselves.

    • Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 03/21/2012 - 04:40 pm.

      So what?

      Showing photo ID is ubiquitous. So what? You are willing to limit a right guaranteed by the constitution based on that? Really?

      Everything else you are saying is petty politics.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/21/2012 - 09:27 pm.

        Which right is that?

        You have no constitutional right to vote. Voting is a privilege.

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/22/2012 - 09:33 am.


          It is laid out as a right of citizenship in Amendment 15 (specifically indicating that race has no bearing on that right), Amendment 19 (specifically indicating that gender has no bearing on that right), and Amendment 26 (specifically indicating that age, beyond the age of 18, has no bearing on that right). It even specifically spells out that you can’t charge anyone to vote in Amendment 24, suggesting that even poor people have the right to vote.

          The only limitation to the right to vote is due to participation in rebellion or other crime (Amendment 14). This is the basis for removing that right from felons.

          At no point does the Constitution say that voting is a privilege.

        • Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 03/22/2012 - 11:01 am.

          Wow Dennis you couldn’t be more wrong.

          • Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/22/2012 - 08:39 pm.

            He got confused

            He thought we were talking about women. Because he thinks it was a mistake that women were ever granted the right to vote.

            That’s why I never take seriously anything Dennis has to say about election law or voters’ rights.

  8. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/21/2012 - 04:18 pm.

    Utterly Amazing

    The republicans looked around the state for things to work on and all they could find was a solution looking for a problem. There is absolutely no proof of voter fraud that would warrant spending millions of dollars to put a system in place that doesn’t have a problem to fix. For a party that goes to the point of being irresponsible because it hates to spend money they sure can get stupid when it serves their needs. This voter fraud thing is a nationally orchestrated effort, by the republican party, with only one purpose in mind – wipe out the voters who won’t vote for them. Republicans have failed talking points that have been proven wrong. Their philosophy is if they say it often enough, even though it is not based in fact, eventually it will be thought of as a fact in the voter’s mind. Voters of America had better wake up or we will visit the George W. Bush era all over again. The word conservative, the republicans throw around, couldn’t be farther from the truth.

  9. Submitted by Sara Fleets on 03/21/2012 - 04:19 pm.

    Vote. Pass. Veto. Override

    Remember when elect representatives would discuss, debate and vote on bills? Then, the Governor would sign or veto the bills. If the Gov vetoed, then reps had to work hard to override the veto if they felt the Gov’s veto was wrong? Yeah, that? Can I have that back, please?

    If MN GOP is going to legislate via the Constitution, can we get rid of the House and Senate? Apparently, normal form doesn’t work anymore.

  10. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/21/2012 - 05:06 pm.

    Dear Representative Kiffmeyer

    We’re not fooled into thinking you care.

  11. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 03/22/2012 - 02:09 am.


    Hey Rachel, that was cool. Who writes it?

  12. Submitted by jody rooney on 03/22/2012 - 10:01 am.

    The irony in the bill

    A good friend of mine voted for many years before she became a citizen by showing her photo ID.

    To be fair she didn’t know she couldn’t, no one mentioned it and the rules here were very different from where she lived.

  13. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/22/2012 - 08:15 pm.

    Picture ID to buy liquor, stopped under age drinking? No
    Picture ID to stop underage cigarette purchases? No
    Picture ID stopped illegal immigration? No
    Picture ID stopped identity theft? No
    Picture ID on drivers license, stopped UN-licensed drivers? No
    Picture ID to buy a gun, stopped unauthorized gun possession? No
    Picture ID to use credit card, stopped credit fraud? No
    Picture ID to vote, Fascist movement to limit freedoms guaranteed by 15th Amendment of the bill of rights, and cheat the country at the voting booth . Yes!
    Hey Re-pubs, how about an IQ test, that would at least make some sense! Or are you pro-ignorance?

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/23/2012 - 08:33 am.

    Picture ID

    Nice Wagner. Do you mind if I borrow this? With appropriate credit of course.

  15. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 03/26/2012 - 11:04 pm.

    Kiffmeyer’s creeping constitution?

    Buy a ticket to vote folks with your picture…wow. Once you have to buy the right to vote we won’t have to worry about cheaters, eh?

    Get your picture I.D. early as we all well know, anything in the marketplace will be sold for a premium the closer it gets to poll time, the price goes up; you betcha.

    After all, the right to vote is just like buying a car they say. Now there’s a great selling point…and that’s what it is I suppose …selling the right to vote. And if you can’t afford it, you don’t deserve it?

    Civil rights sold out for the right to vote…those little dollar signs creep into this society a little more every day

    You could say the Bill of Rights will soon be a bill you pay at the end of the month if you want to enjoy all the freedoms once promised.

    Way to go when the ‘almighty dollah’ is the medium of exchange and freedom is just another ‘selling point’?

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