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Senate approval clears way for Voter ID constitutional amendment

Protesters gathered inside the gallery for Friday night's Senate debate of the Voter ID amendment

Minnesotans will have two controversial constitutional amendments to decide this fall, following Senate action Friday that clears the way for the Republican-backed plan that would require voters to show a photo ID.

Only technicalities remain before the Voter ID measure joins last session’s marriage amendment on the general election ballot.

After lengthy debate Friday afternoon and evening,  the Senate voted 36 to 30 with one Republican — Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona — joining all DFLers in opposing the constitutional amendment.

In the process, the Senate accepted one wording change — offered by Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing  — that would give future Legislatures more flexibility in adopting new technologies that would be “the equivalent” of photo ID in terms of ensuring the identity of a voter.

Hundreds rallied outside the Senate chambers in opposition to the amendment, and session started late because President Michelle Fischbach was embroiled in a partisan ethics hearing over former Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel.

Democrats in the Senate proposed nearly 15 amendments, all of which were rejected. 

Opponents say that Voter ID would disenfranchise the elderly, the disabled, students and the poor, while advocates say it necessary to prevent voter fraud.

“It really is a terrible idea if you consider the implications of an amendment to the state constitution,” DFL Sen. Katie Sieben said on the floor. “This is a complete overhaul of our election system.”

But Sen. Scott Newman, who cited Indiana’s Voter ID law and the Supreme Court ruling that upheld it, said Minnesota’s election system is in need of an upgrade. He also told his colleagues on the Senate floor that the measure isn’t meant to disenfranchise anyone.

“There is nothing here that disenfranchises any of the individuals that Sen. [Tom] Bakk is describing,” Newman said after some questioning from the Senate minority leader. “Every time someone votes who is ineligible to vote, that disenfranchises an eligible voter.”

Some DFL amendments had become regulars, such as replacing Photo ID with a repeal of last session’s marriage amendment or exempting certain groups — students and veterans — from having to show an ID.

Both sides also disagreed on some of the legislation’s potential side effects. Democrats say that provisional balloting, which would be required if Voter ID passes in November, is an “elaborate, time-consuming, costly system.”

They also say that certain provisions in the bill could end Election Day Registration, a Minnesota tradition.

Earlier this week, after nine contentious hours of debate, the House approved the Voter ID measure along party lines 72 to 62.

Now, the House will have to either agree to the Senate’s language change or send the measure to a conference committee, which would work out compromise wording.

Either way, Voter ID will be on the general-election ballot along with the marriage amendment, which would restrict marriage to one man and one woman.

James Nord contributed to this report.

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/24/2012 - 08:51 am.

    Don’t amend our constitution just to serve republicans

    Without ANY proof of Minnesota voter fraud the republicans only have a solution looking for a problem. Look across America. The voter ID effort is a nation wide concerted republican effort to disenfranchise those who won’t vote for the republicans failed policies and ideals. There is no reason to amend our constitution just to serve republicans. The republicans need to start working for all the people in Minnesota, not just their pet social engineering projects that only serve their narrow self centered purposes of the one percent. If you are not part of the one percent you shouldn’t be voting for republicans because they will not serve you!

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 03/24/2012 - 11:41 am.

      Get out the vote!

      We have to get enough reasonable people to the polls this election day to put an end to all these regressive policies the Republicans keep putting out there.

      Start now. Tell everyone you know how important it is for them to be at the polls on election day.

      Get out the vote!

    • Submitted by wayne rife on 03/24/2012 - 08:39 pm.

      Social engineering

      Tom, What do you call Obamacare? There is all kinds of proof of voter fraud. You google it and find it. Of course you would rather play dumb. Republican failed policies? Name one. Just one.

      • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/25/2012 - 08:19 am.

        Thanks for asking

        Let’s see, at the national level, two wars, chasing WMD, Medicare part D, running the country into the ditch, and tax breaks for those job-creating rich, all unpaid for. Where are the jobs they have created with 11 years of tax cuts? Locally, I’m guessing you like the mess Pawlenty left us with all so he could look presidential. The republicans have been making great progress fixing up our state’s infrastructure, jobs, working for all the people of Minnesota. How have they done this? By working republican social engineering projects. Other states may have voter fraud that requires massive expenditures to fix. Minnesota recently has had two contested elections and no voter fraud was found that would could justify a million dollar system to service the republican fears. The republicans have a solution without a problem. I guess you like paying more than twice what some other countries pay for medical care with worse results. Maybe The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, who knows it isn’t fully implemented yet. If parts don’t work, fix it, no need to repeal everything the republicans are fearful of. Even the republican guru Rush Limbaugh said the republicans have to keep the “fear and anger” going. Notice he made no mention of facts, only “fear and anger”.

        • Submitted by wayne rife on 03/25/2012 - 08:25 pm.

          Yeah right.

          Tom. Why were you not down at the capital bitching when the I 35W bridge contract went to a Colorado company? This is one of the best examples of stupidity on jobs. Not only did they elect to build the most expensive bridge but also from another state. And as far as the wars go. Obama said he would end both wars with in 90 days of being sworn in as president. And as you can see that did not happen. So if you want to save money it certainly is not happening with democrats in office. As for as saving money Tom and health care. I take care of my self. I don’t drink or smoke. I exercise. You see Tom. If people decided that certain things were bad for them and did not have a insurance plan to cure them of their poor decisions they might think twice about what they put into their bodies and the activities they pursue. So let me see Tom I suppose you think that stupid rail system between Saint Paul and Minneapolis is fine example of money wisely spent?

          • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/26/2012 - 07:28 am.

            That is the republican way

            Yes you do take care of your self, that is a good thing and may it stay that way for you. Unfortunately not all health problems stem from drinking and smoking. For some the causes are far beyond human control. Some are born with it, some have accidents, some just wear out sooner than others. There is plenty to grip about that politicians do on both sides of the aisle with our tax money. That is what a representative government is all about. Voting for someone who you think will make the best decisions on average and we move the state and country forward. Based on your comments it seems you might be unhappy living any place in the US because someone will be spending your money unwisely.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/24/2012 - 10:39 am.

    Three cheers for Senator Miller

    It takes guts in these times to vote against the Republican leadership (as in the removal from committee memberships and refusal of party support for re-election we saw in the year that six brave Rs voted for an increase in the gas tax).

    If a few felons vote by mistake before their probation time is up, it certainly won’t affect the results of any election. But this voter i.d. system would.

    When the Republicans say the i.d. would be “free,” they mean the $10 card, not the expensive documents supporting its issue. Students, the elderly, poor, disabled, the homeless and others who cannot afford this documentation will be among several hundred thousand Minnesotans who legally-but-immorally disenfranchised.

    When they say election-day voters who lack the proper i.d. (the special voter i.d. card) can submit provisional ballots, they should confess that in some states provisional votes are not just counted at once but may never be counted.

    Secretary of State Ritchie’s recommendation that precincts have access to government-issued photos on file in data-bases like drivers license records would make this i.d. doubly unnecessary – as though it ever has been.

    • Submitted by wayne rife on 03/24/2012 - 08:30 pm.

      Voter ID

      I wonder how the poor get booze and cigarettes but yet have no money for a $10 ID card? How does that work? The elderly don’t have money? The disabled don’t have money?

      Just today I worked on a home where a woman that was receiving Section 8 housing had a $200 cable bill. So where are people’s priorities?

      Bernice votes may never be counted? How can that be? Do you have some smoking gun? The fear you speak of is all in your head.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 03/24/2012 - 10:59 am.

    Where is the representation ?

    Once again republican house and senate member are showing their ineptness and their lack of capacity to serve the needs of the citizens of Minnesota. As long as they can hang their hat on hot-button meaningless social issues, they feel secure among the fringe element electorate that has voted for them in the past.
    They were elected under the guise of solving the financial problems of this State. That primary economic function has eluded them in favor of the social issues that they think will appease their fringe voters so that they can get elected again. Well boys and girls……don’t hold your breath….this is not Kansas or Texas.

  4. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 03/24/2012 - 11:49 am.

    Voter ID

    Tom, Tom–you’re missing the big picture. The GOP is just going back to our Founding Fathers and the intent of the original Framers: to just have the landed gentry vote. You know, democracy for the ruling class and to hell with the rest of us riff-raff.

  5. Submitted by mark wallek on 03/24/2012 - 02:08 pm.

    No need for this invasion of personal integrity.

    Next these same people who want the genuinely unnecessary voter I.D. will want me to hold out my arm for the number tatoo. As they sell a package containing essentially muckraked fear, they will also be ardent supporters of things like blatent usuery by the banks and credit card companies, insider trading benefits for themselves and their friends, and needing to be in the financial elite to qualify for elective office. This is not America, well, it it is, unfortunately. The truely unfortunate thing is that far too many of our finest, since the time of Vietnam up until now, have given their lives for a nation that has been stolen from it’s own citizens, the bulk of whom don’t even seem to care.

    • Submitted by wayne rife on 03/24/2012 - 08:35 pm.


      Mark, Obamacare is an invasion of my personal choice and freedom.

      • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 03/25/2012 - 09:47 am.

        Mr. Rife, let’s play a game: I’ll describe a health-care bill to you. Then you tell me if I’m describing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act or the budget released this week by GOP Representative Paul Ryan.

        The bill works like this: The federal government subsidizes Americans to participate in health insurance markets known as “exchanges.” Inside these exchanges, insurers can’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions. Individuals can choose to go without insurance, but if they do so, they pay a penalty. To keep premium costs down, the government ties the size of the subsidy to the second-least-expensive plan in the market — a process known as “competitive bidding,” which encourages consumers to choose cheaper plans.

        This is, of course, a trick question. That paragraph describes both the Affordable Care Act and Ryan’s proposed Medicare reforms. The insurance markets in both plans are essentially identical. And for good reason.

        The Affordable Care Act was based on two decades of Republican thinking about health care. The basic structure was first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989, first written into a bill by Senate Republicans in 1993, and first passed into law by a Republican governor by the name of Mitt Romney in 2005.

        About 2008, Democrats decided they could live with a system based on private health insurers, federal subsidies and an individual mandate as long as it produced universal coverage. A year later, Republicans decided they couldn’t live with such a system, at least not if a Democratic president was proposing it.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/25/2012 - 01:01 pm.

        So is the

        IRS by your logic (sic).

  6. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 03/25/2012 - 06:43 am.

    Have not seen any valid argument.

    I have not see any valid argument from anyone here or elsewhere in relation to NOT requiring ID in which to vote.
    There is ONLY one reason someone does not like showing an ID and that is to cheat. I don’t care if you are democrat or republican or what ever, showing an ID is proper.
    I still have a problem though. Showing an ID is one thing. Having someone validate that with a list; ie they were ‘expecting’ you to appear (valid voting registration), and checking you off a list. This is important. It means that in some form; a database was checked. Because if you appear at a polling place and you are NOT on that list and show an ID; but no one checks it, still leaves the system ripe for invalidated votes. I hope the legislation has put something into place to ensure that validation happens, and that persons appearing at multiple polling places; and voting, as validated by database comparisons, will put these folks in some prison time. We need to clean this mess up. This nonsense didn’t happen in the early days, and it shouldn’t happen now.

    • Submitted by David Greene on 03/26/2012 - 03:36 pm.

      Come on!

      Oh please, Jeff. Many valid arguments against this amendment have been put forward. I am again it. Are you thus calling me a cheater?

      This boils down to a poll tax. People will have to spend money to be able to vote. That’s unconstitutional.

      Many elderly don’t have an ID and have no need of one. What about homeless people who don’t have an address to put on an ID? Yes, they do have the right to vote.

      How about the black woman who grew up in the Jim Crow south and doesn’t even have a birth certificate? How does she get an ID if she doesn’t have one?

      These are not hypotheticals. Each scenario was raised by someone testifying at the legislature. These are real people we’re talking about.

      Not fantasy like supposed voter impersonation fraud happening in Minnesota.

      An electronic poll book should satisfy everyone. It doesn’t put the burden of producing an ID on the voter. The state is responsible for producing the photo and registration information (a true database which you indicate you would like). It keeps same-day registration intact as the new voter will be immediately photographed and entered into the database.

      I sincerely ask, what about electronic poll books doesn’t work for you? Why aren’t they good enough?

  7. Submitted by Mark Ritchie on 03/25/2012 - 08:14 am.

    Take two minutes to read the acutal bill-it’s not that long.

    Take two minutes and read the KIffmeyer Amendment and be sure to check out the language that is being proposed for the ballot in November – at the bottom of the bill. The House version of the bill is at might notice that this proposed ballot language completely skips over any mention of provisional voting and the ending of same day registration — and it makes no mention of taxpayer costs. MinnPost readers might wonder why this has not been mentioned. To call this a “photo id amendment” might make sense from a political perspective. If it was called the “Kill Same Day Registration” amendment it would face the wrath of voters like what happened in Maine last November where the citizens rejected a similar attempt by the legislature to end Same Day Registration by a vote of 61% to 37%. Lori Sturdevant puts a spotlight on this in her column today

    • Submitted by Ross Williams on 03/25/2012 - 08:36 pm.

      Thank you!

      Thank you for providing a link to the actual bill, although it does not appear to be the final version and the link above is broken, it should be

      The amendment, as written, seems to indicate any “government-issued photographic identification” would be acceptable. It makes no requirement that it include an address or in any way indicate the person is otherwise eligible to vote. For instance, employee photo id’s issued by any government agency would be sufficient. As would a student id issued by a public school. Its not even clear that foreign passports or id’s issued by the Mexican consulate office to its nationals wouldn’t meet the requirement for “government-issued”. The only thing this legislation appears to address is that some government agency recognizes this person under the name they are using to vote.

      An alternative interpretation is that the state legislature can create regulations that further limit what “government-issued photographic identification” is allowed. But nothing in the amendment seems to give them that authority.

      The other issue is that the requirement is limited to people getting ballots on election day. You are not required to identify yourself when voting absentee. Except it says this “All voters must be subject to substantially equivalent eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.” That would imply that absentee voters need to provide a photo id in order to cast an absentee ballot. That, of course, would include any active duty soldiers who want to vote. Of course, given the way this is written, a sharp lawyer would make the case that requiring a photo id has nothing to do with “eligibility verification”, and they would be right.

  8. Submitted by Randall Ryder on 03/25/2012 - 09:51 pm.

    Is this Texas?

    Precisely how many people in Minnesota vote illegally? I suspect it is less than .001 of the population. OK, just for fun, let’s say .01 perception of the population. Now let’s presume there is some parity is this scheme and people of both political partie vote illegally. Enought to change an election? Far, far from likely. Indeed, this is about disenfranchisement which will effect far greater than 0.01 percent of the population. When will the legislature propose separate, but equal, water fountains?

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 03/26/2012 - 08:11 pm.

      Virtual no one votes illegally..

      All Republicans could come up with are 39 felons who voted illegal during the Emmer recount. Most of those were given bad information. They thought they could vote. So what’s the percentage. 1,800,000 votes cast, 39 illegally?

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/25/2012 - 11:28 pm.

    Some statistics

    A sampling of instances of wrongful rejection of provisional ballots

    Pew Center on the States – 2008: 464,647 rejected in 43 states, 45.3% because voter not registered (wasn’t that the reason for provisional ballots?), other reasons include wrong precinct and administrative errors)

    Wikipedia – Data from Election Assistance Commission: 2004: 675,676 discarded (35.5% cast at wrong precinct); 2006: 170,872 discarded (20.5% at wrong precinct)

    NY Times editorial 11/21/2004: One voter sent from precinct to precinct, allowed to vote at fourth one; vote rejected because it was cast at the wrong precinct.

    ACLU of Arizona – 2008: 39,741 cast at wrong precinct, mostly because that’s where voters were directed to cast their votes

    Same day registration assures that every vote cast is honored as is the case in Minnesota and seven or eight other states. Voter i.d. would assure the same kind of undercounting that states with provisional voting have.

  10. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 03/26/2012 - 08:14 pm.

    ALEC had moved from passing bills to altering our Constitution

    We need to start calling these folks out. These bills come straight out of ALEC. An outside entity trying to change the Constitution of our State. People should be outraged and Republicans should be ashamed. Forget that last one, we know that’s not possible.

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