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Voter photo ID amendment advances in Senate

Sen. Katie Sieben, pictured here during an earlier Senate hearing on a voter photo ID proposal, was among lawmakers who voted against the measure in committee on Wednesday. The measure passed 8-6. File photo by Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau1 / 2
Beth Fraser of the secretary of state's office and Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson Wednesday listen to a senator discuss requiring a photo ID before Minnesotans vote. Newman's constitutional amendment proposal passed the Senate committee. Photo by Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau2 / 2

The Republican-pushed proposal to require Minnesotans to produce photographic IDs before voting won a Wednesday party-line 8-6 Senate committee vote.

Sen. Scott Newman's proposed constitutional amendment must receive approval from at least one more committee, but since Republicans control the Senate that is likely.

Newman, R-Hutchinson, said the plan could lift Minnesota's already nation-leading voter turnout to even higher levels.

"The more confident voters are in our election process, the more likely it is that voters will participate in the election process," Newman said.

As Newman spoke about voter fraud in other states, Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis tweeted: "Elections law differs from state to state. Show real voter fraud in MN or drop the bill."

Beth Fraser of the secretary of state's office said 150,000 Minnesotans could be affected if voters next November approve the proposed amendment. They would include absentee voters, who she said would not be able to present photo IDs like in-person voters.

"It is not my intent to disenfranchise anyone," Newman said. "It is my intent to protect the integrity of the system."

Sen. Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove, the lead Democrat on the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, said the proposal lacks details such as what would be an acceptable photo identification and how local governments would pay for its implementation.

"I'm all for improving elections," Sieben said in a statement, "but a photo ID requirement in the constitution is simply not needed. Minnesota leads the nation in turning out on Election Day, and we have proven the integrity of our elections in recent statewide recounts. This is voter suppression, it's costly to taxpayers, and it won't even stop felons from voting."

Newman said the Legislature next year will decide details about photo ID requirements if voters approve it.

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.