Voters split over voter ID amendment

Minnesota voters were divided Tuesday if they would be required to prove who they are in elections beginning next year.

With a quarter of the votes tallied, 45 percent of Minnesotans supported the proposed constitutional amendment.

People on both sides of the issue predicted they would not know the final results until late Tuesday or, maybe, on Wednesday.

The amendment would put a voter photographic ID requirement into the state Constitution.

Election officials said they know of little voter fraud and said the constitutional amendment would cost millions of dollars, but supporters said that democracy demands fair elections. To ensure fairness, they said, Minnesotans must submit photographic identifications before voting.

The voter ID concept was pushed by legislative Republicans. Debate on the issue is occurring in many states, with the National Conference of State Legislatures reporting a dozen states have voter photo ID requirements.

Some voter ID laws are under court review, including one in Wisconsin. Observers said they expected the Minnesota constitutional amendment also to face legal action if voters approved it.

Republicans who fear voter fraud passed a voter ID bill in 2011, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it, saying he would not sign a bill changing election laws without significant bipartisan support.

Constitutional amendment proposals are passed by the Legislature, this year controlled by Republicans, and go directly to voters. The governor has no official say, although Dayton has campaigned against voter ID.

Voter ID supporters say they have dug up files on hundreds of illegal votes. Most, however, were felons whose voting rights had not been restored, a category of illegal voters that amendment opponents say would not be affected by requiring an ID.

Opponents say such a constitutional amendment would disenfranchise voters such as the elderly, the poor, minorities and others who would find it difficult to obtain photo IDs.

The amendment would require photo IDs, but accept “substantially equivalent” identification from absentee and other voters who do not cast ballots in polling places on Election Day.

It would be up to the next Legislature to determine what is equivalent to a photo ID and to enact a number of laws to implement the amendment.

 

Free-lance writers Martin Owings and Andrew Tellijohn contributed to this story.

 

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