Photo ID constitutional amendment poised for final passage

Photo ID authors Sen. Scott Newman and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer

After the Photo ID constitutional amendment — minus controversial technology language added by the Senate — clears both houses again, its fate will lie with Minnesota’s citizens in November.

A hastily called conference committee on Monday adopted final language, dropping an amendment that had gained support from both Senate Republicans and opponents of the overall measure.

During March 23 floor debate, Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, proposed broadening the language requiring voters to present a “government-issued photographic identification” to vote. Howe amended the language to make more technology options available, allowing for “equivalent” identification measures that future lawmakers could enact.

Howe told the Senate, which overwhelmingly passed his amendment 63-3, that it’s a bad decision to place dated technology requirements in the state Constitution.

“That’s why I believe there was such a strong Senate position on it,” he said in an interview, “because it did improve the language in that amendment.”

Senate DFLers supported the change because it at least in part addresses their concerns that the Photo ID requirement would disenfranchise many voters.

“That ‘or equivalent’ language, I think, gave some comfort to me that future Legislatures would have to be more inclusive in determining what types of IDs would be acceptable,” DFL Sen. Katie Sieben, who has been highly involved in the debate, said in an interview.

Howe also said that his amendment helps keep the Photo ID measure constitutional, but opponents say it’s unnecessary.

House opposed Senate change

Last week, the House refused to adopt the Senate language, and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the chief House author, called Howe’s amendment “problematic.”

“It’s just a general consensus that that’s an issue, whether it’s the Senate side or the House side, whatever it all is, it’s input saying that’s a problem,” she said.

 The House debated similar language but eventually dispatched it.

Sen. Scott Newman, the chief Senate author, and Kiffmeyer agreed to new language on the bill before it was released publicly on Monday.

The compromise provisions removed Howe’s “equivalent” language and distinguished between in-person and not-in-person voters in order to better align with other state Photo ID measures that have passed judicial muster.

When asked if there was discussion about Howe’s change, one of the most significant since the debate over this year’s amendments began, Kiffmeyer replied: “Not much.”

Interviews with nine of the 10n conferees, five from each body, show that Howe’s amendment was likely to fail if conference committee members had been forced to vote on it.

Newman testified in support of Howe’s amendment on the Senate floor in March, saying he “philosophically” agreed with its intent to give future Legislatures more latitude in writing the enacting language.

But after voting for the altered rules, Newman chose not to place Howe on the conference committee. He did, however, appoint two of the three ‘no’ votes on Howe’s amendment as Senate-side conferees.

Newman said after the committee adjourned that he didn’t purposely exclude Howe from the deliberations.

MinnPost photo by James NordSen. John Howe, who proposed a substantial amendment to the constitutional amendment, before the meeting convened on Monday.

And Sen. Warren Limmer, one of the “no” votes, sponsored the Photo ID legislation Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed last session and has significant experience in election issues.

In the House, Kiffmeyer said Speaker Kurt Zellers chose the conferees.

“I firmly believe that my amendment will be taken out,” Howe said a day before the committee convened. “I mean, I think that when you see that two of the three people who voted against my amendment were appointed as conferees, I think that pretty much sealed that amendment’s fate, although we did have a pretty strong Senate position on it.”

Even so, Howe raised his concerns before the committee, where he spoke in support of Photo ID but against parts of the Republican measure here.

Howe said he’d again call for the same amendment on the Senate floor when it comes up.

The conference committee, short three members, voted unanimously to send the constitutional amendment back to both floors for final votes. It would then bypass Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk and head straight to the voters in the general elections.

Members never had to vote on Howe’s change.

Republicans vigorously defend Photo ID

But the Republican conferees did offer their most vigorous defense of Photo ID to date, responding to testimony against the measure.

Beth Fraser, from the Secretary of State’s office, again voiced concerns that Photo ID provisions could hamper Election Day registration and affect absentee and mail-in balloting.

Kiffmeyer asked Fraser if she would support any Photo ID constitutional amendment.

“I would not support a Photo ID constitutional amendment, but I think this is — this is not a Photo ID constitutional amendment,” Fraser replied. “This is so much more than that.”

“I think it’s a misnomer to call this a Photo ID amendment because it’s really an amendment that’s going to completely overhaul Minnesota’s election system,” she added.

Rep. Keith Downey disputed claims that there are nearly 1 million voters that would be affected by the Photo ID amendment.

“These wild numbers, just off-the-charts numbers that don’t jive with any experience in any other state under a Photo ID requirement. Boy, they really don’t hold up underwater, and I think they warrant some initial investigation,” he said.

Newman called out “naysayers,” and Kiffmeyer criticized Secretary of State Mark Ritchie without naming him for his opposition.

But after the meeting, Newman appeared refreshed.

“I feel excellent. I’m very, very happy,” he said. “This bill is now moving forward.  … We’ll take it on the House floor. We’ll take it on the Senate floor. We’ll pass it, and it’s going to the voters. That makes me very happy.”

Howe left the meeting without speaking to his Republican colleagues.

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 04/03/2012 - 10:16 am.


    Is the only Republican senator with any guts to challenge the lock-step fringe of his party, holding “power” for a few more months. He will be forced out shortly after a “loyalty” hearing is held in the basement of the capital.

  2. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 04/03/2012 - 10:45 am.

    telegraph amendment

    To avoid fraud with election tallies being written down, we should amend the constitution to have election results sent by telegraph. As long as we’re putting obsolete technologies in the constitution anyway. Maybe we should require that ballots be transported by steamboat.

  3. Submitted by mark wallek on 04/03/2012 - 10:46 am.

    What next?

    DNA tagging? A tatoo on my arm?

    • Submitted by Rich Crose on 04/03/2012 - 11:29 am.

      Brain Chips

      They tell you what to think.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/03/2012 - 04:23 pm.

      Every time you vote . . . .

      They’ll cut off one finger joint. With 14 joints available per hand (28 total) and one election every two years, that’ll keep you going for 56 elections (112 years worth of elections). More than enough! Most people won’t even use up all their available joints!

      Now THERE’S a solution!

  4. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 04/03/2012 - 12:01 pm.

    Voter ID

    I still don’t understand how the voter ID amendment will work. They are relying on people proving they are eligible to vote using ID that is obtained with unsubstantiated documents. The documents to get a MN Photo ID or a MN DL are not substantiated at the time to be genuine and even if they are genuine, you do not even need to be a resident of the US to get one with a MN address on it.

  5. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 04/03/2012 - 12:30 pm.

    Action Needed By Future Legislatures

    It will be up to future Legislatures to gut this abomination if the amenment is passed in November. The easiest way it seems to me is require that all provisional ballots cast (by voters without an “appoved” photo ID) be counted unless there is clear and compelling evidence that the voter was not eligible to vote. Place the burden of proof on the county to disallow the ballot, not on the voter.

    Or, enact a statute that allows a voter with an “approved” photo ID to vouch for a voter who does not have one but who is a resident of that precinct. It also within the power of the Legislature to require that persons requesting a photo ID for the purposes of voting be requiured to simply provide their name and current address in order to receive that ID with no further “proof” required.

    This whole effort is aimed at disenfranchising people the Republican Party does not want voting. As Speaker Zellers noted earlier, to he – and presumably many of his Republican colleagues agree- voting is “a privilege” and not a right. Restoring the right to vote by tearing down the barriers that this amendment will create should be a high priority for Minnesotans iin the years to come.

  6. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 04/03/2012 - 01:09 pm.

    Now that

    Kiffmeyer has completed her life work of restricting voting by putting this unnecessary amendment on the ballot, perhaps she will write her book and disappear from politics.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/03/2012 - 04:13 pm.

    This amendment is nonsense

    The state constitution says that all kids will receive a k-12 public education but it doesn’t specify the logistics of how that will be done. I’m sure the writers of the constitution assumed bricks and mortar classroom facilities but the constitution doesn’t specify that and it hasn’t prevented the government from using online schools and other technological advances.

    No one has challenged the constitutionality of those alternative education delivery systems because the intend of the law, education, is clear.

    No one would question the constitutionality of specific ID technology either for the same reason because the intent of the law, identifying yourself as a valid voter, is also clear.

  8. Submitted by Bruce Bednarek on 04/03/2012 - 05:44 pm.


    After following this (admittedly not like a hungry dog after a rare steak) as time permits, I’m still not clear on what the amendment really will read as. Once the amendment hits the ballot, will it be clearly defined to a degree that it can be comprehended and understood and will the parts of the amendment that will be exposed to future change (such as technology enhancements) be appropriately identified so the voter clearly understands what he/she is voting for? …..OR…. Will the amendment be identified by a one or two sentence statement?

    Mr. Nord, can you/will you when it is available, post the actual amendment or provide a link as to how to find it?

    • Submitted by Linda Owen on 04/03/2012 - 09:52 pm.

      Here’s the language

      “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

      The title required under Minnesota Statutes, section 204D.15, subdivision 1, for
      the question submitted to the people under paragraph (a) shall be: “Photo Identification Required for Voting.”

      And here’s the conference committee report with the rest of the details:

      House is taking it up tonight (Tues.), 9:45 p.m.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/04/2012 - 06:04 am.

    “They are relying on people proving they are eligible to vote using ID that is obtained with unsubstantiated documents.”

    As proposed, voter ID says nothing about eligibility to vote in terms of qualifications. ID must have a photo, and it must be issued by a government, any government would be fine, it seems. A California driver license or a Canadian passport would be ok. If you take the language literally, the ID presented doesn’t even have to be one’s own ID.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/04/2012 - 10:54 am.

    I have a legal question. The ballot question differs from the text in a way I would view as substantial, The amendment refers to government issued ID, the ballot question does not. Does this create the possibility of a court challenge, basically on the grounds that what voters voted for on the ballot differed substantially from what was actually proposed?

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