A proposed constitutional amendment to require a photo ID for Minnesota voters is part of a surge of similar legislation nationwide, much of it springing from a conservative organization that’s well-known to politicians but operates largely out of public view. Six states enacted a strict photo ID requirement last year, and this year lawmakers in 31 other states are considering it. Minnesota’s Republican-controlled Legislature actually passed such a requirement last year but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it — prompting its backers to seek an amendment on the November ballot that Dayton cannot block. The dispute over voter ID is Exchange deeply partisan. While Republicans cast it as a common-sense requirement that foils voter fraud, many Democrats say it would make voting more difficult for the poor, minorities, the elderly and disabled — constituencies that often favor them.
The American Legislative Council, or ALEC, has offered its ideas on voter ID for anyone interested in taking them. Established in 1973, the organization offers state lawmakers a menu of model bills on a range of issues: from business-friendly changes to the civil legal system to reducing regulations backed by environmentalists.
About 2,000 legislators around the country are ALEC members, joined by 300 corporate or private members. Companies such as Wal-Mart, AT&T and ExxonMobil pay between $7,000 and $25,000 to belong, and for various fees such companies can sit on task forces that draft model legislation. ALEC approved its model policy for voter ID in 2009. Cara Sullivan, a legislative analyst, said in an email that it was “just one of hundreds of models” that ALEC had produced. Sullivan wrote that ALEC has “never campaigned to promote these policies in the states.”
… Tim Penny, a former Minnesota congressman who now teaches at the University of Minnesota, said it’s not uncommon for both conservative and liberal groups — whether industries, unions or advocacy groups — to offer prepared legislation to lawmakers from both political parties. He said, though, that he’s unaware of a direct liberal counterpart to ALEC, with its wide range of policy interests.