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.