Election Notebook: Voter ID Amendment Takes Spotlight

Debate about a proposed constitutional amendment requiring Minnesota voters to show photographic identification intensified Wednesday.

Among the disputes, the two sides of the question appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot disagreed about whether a military ID would be acceptable.

A television commercial by Our Vote Our Future, the umbrella group opposing the amendment, shows a veteran complaining that elections officials could not accept his ID.

“Supporters of the voter restriction amendment are asking Minnesotans to trust them: pass this amendment with no specifics, and we’ll fill in the details later,” spokesman Eric Fought said.

Those behind the amendment say Fought’s group is wrong.

“It’s a blatant lie and they know it,” said Dan McGrath, chairman of Protect My Vote. “The voter ID amendment was carefully crafted to accommodate a wide variety of government-issued identifications, including military IDs.”

While the proposed amendment requires a “valid government-issued photographic identification,” if voters approve the amendment Nov. 6 next year’s Legislature will decide exactly what that means.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Duluth, released a statement against the amendment, saying it sets up barriers to voting.

“I recently visited the nursing home near my home in the city of Cook, and I discovered that only one of the 28 residents had a government-issued photo ID with their current nursing home address,” he said. “Under the voter restriction amendment, 27 of these senior citizens would be forced to cast a ‘provisional ballot’ that would not be counted until they can prove their change of address to the government.”

The conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota plans radio commercials for the amendment.

League President Phil Krinkie, a former state lawmaker, said photo IDs are common in society.

“Our goal is to educate voters that the requirement of an ID to vote is a common sense solution to ensure integrity in our election process and nothing more,” Krinkie said.

State, campaign split cost

Gov. Mark Dayton has been traveling the state in recent days to campaign for Democratic legislative candidates.

On Wednesday, he spent time in Bemidji working for candidates as well as meeting with officials about a sign hanging from a newly built trail bridge.

Republicans tweeted complaints about flying to Bemidji at state expense. They were half right.

The state airplane used in the trip came with a $3,312 charge, Dayton Press Secretary Katharine Tinucci said, which will be split equally between the state and Dayton’s campaign committee.

When asked if Dayton would have flown to Bemidji just to discuss a sign on the bridge, Tinucci said that he flew to Thief River Falls for a ceremonial ground-breaking for a stop light that he had promised during his campaign two years ago.

City officials want the sign to say “Welcome to Bemidji.” Two Democratic lawmakers were at the meeting, but no Republicans.

The meeting came right after the governor campaigned for fellow Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidates.

The city hopes for a more attractive sign on the new bridge at the gateway into the city. But the Minnesota Department of Transportation expresses concerns about public safety, considering the sign would be adjacent to stop lights on one of the busiest intersections in town.

A silver GOP lining?

The Minnesota Republican Party faces financial woes this election season, which has prevented it from providing much help to its U.S. Senate candidate.

But state Rep. Kurt Bills of Rosemount said the good news is that since he is getting little financial help from the party, the GOP cannot tell him what to do.

“I’m my own guy,” Bills said. “Maybe I’m here at the right time.”

Bills added: “It would be nice to have a state party, but we will get it done anyway. They are rebuilding.”

The Republican candidate trails U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in polls, and he has not seen much of a spotlight during the campaign.

Even so, he said, people know him well enough. “I think so. We just have to walk by faith and get it done.”

Addresses may be updated

The Minnesota Vehicle Services Department plans extended hours on election day to update addresses on driver’s licenses and state identification cards.

Some driver examination stations will be open until 7 p.m. Nov. 6 to update addresses, but exams will not be given after normal hours.

Those staying open late are in Anoka, Austin, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Duluth, Hastings, Mankato, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Virginia.

Absentee time short

Military and other overseas voters are running out of time to cast absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said such voters should contact their Minnesota county auditors’ offices right away to begin the absentee process. Ballots must be back in Minnesota by election day, Nov. 6.

John Hageman of the Bemidji Pioneer contributed to this story.