A Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require Minnesotans show photo identification when they vote has moved closer to a spot on the statewide ballot. Many unanswered questions remain about the looming changes in state election law. A debate by the House Rules Committee today highlighted the deep and sometimes bitter partisan divide over the issue. The rules committee was the last stop for the voter ID bill before a yet-to-be-scheduled House floor vote. Its focus was supposed to be limited to the form and structure of the proposed ballot question, but the discussion quickly expanded to the broader merits of the bill. State Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, urged Republicans to hold off on changing the state constitution. Norton suggested that they instead consider a legislative proposal from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to make use of electronic poll book technology to determine voter eligibility.
“There is an opportunity to have an alternative bill, not messing with our state’s constitution, but a statutory change that will address some of the concerns on your side of the aisle, some of the concerns that some of my voters have, and in a way that doesn’t disenfranchise voters,” Norton said. But the effort to forge a bipartisan voter ID compromise hasn’t gained much traction. After Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill last session, Republicans have made it a priority to take the issue to voters this fall. Dayton cannot veto a constitutional amendment.
… Democrats on the committee objected to a phrase in Kiffmeyer’s bill that all voters would be subject to “substantially equivalent eligibility verification.” They claimed that wording could disenfranchise absentee voters or military personnel, and could end up being challenged in court.