Minnesota’s historic battle over photo ID and the future of the state’s voting system moved from the Capitol to the voters themselves on Wednesday. The House and Senate, with Republicans supplying all the “yes” votes, gave final approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo ID, create a new system of “provisional” balloting and end election day “vouching” for voters without proof of residence. It passed the House on a 72-57 vote shortly after midnight and was approved by the Senate Wednesday afternoon on a 35-29 vote. The decision puts Minnesota squarely in the center of a national debate over election security vs. ballot access. Five states have strict photo ID requirements in law. Wisconsin and several other states are battling the issue in court or in their legislatures. Minnesota now joins Mississippi and Missouri as states that have sought to impose the changes via constitutional amendments. Minnesota’s amendment will likely face court challenges of its own before it goes to voters.
“We will now turn this over to the people of Minnesota, and they will ultimately decide this issue,” the Senate sponsor, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said as the three-hour Senate debate wrapped up. The photo ID amendment will join another emotional topic, the proposed amendment to ban gay marriage, on the general election ballot Nov. 6.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a DFLer who opposes the measure but who would have to oversee its implementation, predicted the amendment would “turn our state’s entire election system upside down.” His predecessor as secretary of state, the House sponsor, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, told House members, “If you have no system that deters and detects fraud, and you don’t determine the identity of voters, the electoral system cannot inspire public confidence.”