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A look at voter ID issues

ST. PAUL -- Here are some issues related to a proposed constitutional amendment that would

require Minnesota voters to produce photographic identification before casting ballots:

• Process: The Minnesota Constitution is amended when the Legislature passes a proposed

amendment and a majority of voters in a general election approve it. The governor has no

official role. The proposed amendment will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

• Politics: In general, Republicans support the amendment and Democrats oppose it. The GOP-

controlled Legislature passed a photo ID bill in 2011, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed

it. That bill would have made a new law; the one on the Nov. 6 ballot would change the state


• Reasoning: Amendment supporters say they want to make sure only eligible voters cast

ballots. Opponents claim Minnesota has the country's cleanest elections and there is no need

for change.

• Impact: Democrats who oppose the amendment say the proposal is a Republican effort to

disenfranchise minority, the elderly and other voters who are less likely to have photo IDs

and are less inclined to go through procedures needed to get one. Most of those groups lean

Democratic. Republicans say the amendment would not affect one group more than another.

• Cost: Proponents and opponents vary greatly on what it would cost to implement the

amendment. Supporters say the cost would be very low, mostly to provide free ID cards to the

few Minnesotans who do not have one. But local elections officials and Secretary of State Mark

Ritchie claim the cost could be much higher, with some estimates topping $100 million. Laws

legislators pass to implement the amendment would determine the final cost.

• Fraud: Minnesota Majority, a group pushing the amendment, says it has found more than 200

felons who voted in violation of state law. Amendment opponents respond that even felons have

photo IDs and the amendment would not stop them from voting. Few other voter fraud cases

have been prosecuted.

• Provisional ballots: The amendment would allow voters who could not produce a photo ID at the

polling place to mark a ballot, but the ballot would not be counted until the voter shows an ID to

local elections officials. Opponents say that many people would need to drive long distances to

show their IDs and some could not do that.

• Absentee ballots: There is a disagreement about how absentee voting would work.

Proponents say that laws implementing the amendment would allow mailed absentee ballots,

perhaps with copies of a photo ID accompanying the ballot. Opponents say the amendment

requires "substantially equivalent" treatment of absentee and in-person voters, which is not


• Mail voting: Arguments about mail-in ballots used in some rural areas fall along the same lines

as absentee voting, with opponents saying the amendment would end mail voting.

Same-day registration: Ritchie, a voter ID opponent, says the amendment would end

Minnesota's practice of allowing voters to register on election day. Amendment supporters,

however, argue that a voter could register at the polls but if he does not have a photo ID he

would cast a provisional ballot and show his ID later. About 500,000 Minnesotans registered on

election day four years ago.

• Other states: Thirty states have some form of voter identification requirement, with only

Mississippi putting it into the state Constitution. Judges have suspended some of the laws.

• What ID?: Supporters say the proposal was written so tribal and military IDs could be accepted

at the polls. But the Legislature must decide those details, and questions such as whether a

state school ID would be accepted.

• Specifics: If the amendment passes Nov. 6, the Legislature and governor would consider bills

next year to determine just how it would be implemented.

• On the ballot: "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?"

• Full amendment: "All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued

photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic

identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting

the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic

identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only

be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law. All voters,

including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and

eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted."

• Not voting: If a voter leaves the amendment part of the ballot blank, it counts as a vote against

the amendment. So for a constitutional amendment to be adopted, it must receive a majority of

the total number of ballots cast, not just the votes on the amendment.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.