Minnesota’s intense struggle over voting rights and election security is moving into close quarters. The battleground has shifted to the precise wording of a proposed photo ID constitutional amendment to be written by a legislative committee. The two sides read the same language in different ways but agree that the stakes are high for this final revision. What words are chosen, and how they are interpreted, could change the way Minnesotans vote. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie reads the language and sees a bombshell for Minnesota’s elections — an end to the popular system of same-day registration and creation of a parallel bureaucracy of provisional ballots that could delay reporting of election results. Photo ID sponsor Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, sees the text of the Republican-backed bills as flexible enough to allow Minnesota’s current voting system to continue but with improved security.
The wording is more crucial than usual because photo ID is being offered as a permanent amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, which would be very difficult to change. “We’re writing in indelible ink,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park. At each step, debate over the wording has intensified.
Competing bills requiring voters to show a photo ID passed both Republican-controlled chambers last week without attracting any DFL votes, but only after marathon debates over what the language means. An all-Republican, House-Senate conference committee has been appointed to write a compromise version, which would have to go back to each chamber for final approval. That language would be submitted to voters in November as a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.