Update: Minnesota voters reject voter ID

Minnesota voters do not want to prove who they are.

Forty-six percent of voters Tuesday wanted to amend the state Constitution to require a photo ID before voting, but 50 percent was needed.

The Minnesota vote went against a trend in other states to approve voter ID.

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.

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.

 

Election Notebook: Bills get into TV commercial game

Kurt Bills’ first television commercial of his U.S. Senate campaign attacks Sen. Amy Klobuchar with allegations she says are false.

The 30-second commercial claims that as Hennepin County attorney, Klobuchar ignored evidence against Tom Petters, who later was prosecuted in a scheme to bilk investors.

“He ran one of the biggest ponzi schemes in history … and Amy Klobuchar helped keep him out of prison,” the spot says.

Klobuchar, a first-term Democrat, told a Bills staff member who records her at campaign appearances that “they are untrue allegations,” adding that if Bills has evidence of wrongdoing that he could turn them over to a prosecutor.

Klobuchar and Hennepin County attorney’s office spokesmen said no evidence against Petters was given to her.

Bills’ campaign scheduled the commercial to run in the Twin Cities during Thursday night’s Minnesota Vikings-Tampa Bay Buccaneers football game.

Earlier in the year, campaign manager Mike Osskopp said the first TV ad would be to introduce Bills to the public. Bills is a little-known first-term state representative and Rosemount High School economics teacher.

Klobuchar has run four television commercials, but said she was the last senator seeking re-election to start her advertising.

Bills’ campaign reported it had $68,000 in the bank at the end of last month, while Klobuchar had $4.9 million.

The latest public poll in the race, from Rasmussen Reports, showed Klobuchar ahead 56 percent to 33 percent, with 9 percent undecided and 2 percent behind another candidate. Other polls have shown Klobuchar with bigger leads.

Split on amendments

A St. Cloud State University poll shows Minnesota voters appear to be split on the two constitutional amendment proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The survey shows 51 percent of likely voters would cast ballots against an amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Fifty-five percent of likely voters favor a proposal to require voters to show photo identification.

Constitutional amendments must receive votes of more than half of all ballots cast, not just those cast for or against amendments. Candidate races are won by the person who collects more votes than anyone else, which in multi-candidate races may not even be half of those voting in that race.

Absentee votes pile up

Minnesotans have cast more than 114,000 absentee votes, the secretary of state’s office reported.

State law allows voters who will be away from their precincts on Nov. 6 to cast absentee ballots in person or by mail if they request a ballot from elections officials.

For most Minnesotans, their county auditor’s office is the contact point for absentee ballots.

Obama ahead

Slightly more than half of Minnesota voters back President Barack Obama, a Rasmussen Reports poll shows.

The survey of likely voters showed Democrat Obama with 51 percent and Republican Mitt Romney with 46 percent. One percent was undecided and another 1 percent prefers another candidate.

The Obama campaign is touring Minnesota this week, without the candidate, to encourage backers to vote on Nov. 6. The Romney campaign has no office in the state.

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.

 

Item by item look at voter ID issues

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 Constitution.

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 possible.

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.

Legislators would fill in voter ID blanks

Both sides in Minnesota’s voter photo identification debate try to paint pictures about how life would look if the requirement passes Nov. 6, but the real picture has yet to be painted.

If voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment, state legislators will take the brush to canvass next year to provide a detailed picture.

Even before that picture is on display, those taking sides on the issue are saying how they think things would look in a voter ID world.

For instance, cost estimates to implement voter ID range from a few million dollars to more than $100 million. What legislators decide next year would determine the actual cost.

Voter ID opponent Take Action Minnesota claims that if voters must produce a photo ID before casting a ballot, it “would stop students, people with housing instability, communities of color, people with disabilities, rural Minnesotans, older Minnesotans, active-duty service members and veterans from having a voice in our democracy.”

Protect My Vote, which backs voter ID, assures voters: “If your driver’s license has an old address on it, you’ll still be able to use it to vote as long as you can also bring a utility bill, lease agreement, pay stub or other evidence of your new address.”

However, the proposed constitutional amendment on Minnesota’s Nov. 6 ballot does not include specifics to back any such claims, lawmakers on both sides say. Decisions about how to implement the amendment, if it passes, would come in next year’s Minnesota legislative session or by the courts. Those decisions would shape voter ID.

“Constitutional amendments are just broad brush strokes of public policy,” said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, the Senate author of the plan. “There is nothing unusual here.”

Among the issues to be determined would be specifically what government-issued IDs would be accepted for voting, how to handle ballots of people who show up at polling places without an ID, how people sending absentee and mail-in ballots can be treated “substantially equivalent” to in-person voters, what the state would do to provide free IDs to people and where to get money to fund the program.

While the Legislature is supposed to deal with such questions if the amendment passes, Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said there is a high likelihood that the courts will be involved.

“One thing we know is the people who support voter ID and those who oppose voter ID are willing to go to court in order to have their view of the world enforced,” Winkler said.

Newman agreed that there is a good possibility of lawsuits, but said that specifics coming out of the Legislature would need to be a compromise, which could lessen chances of a court case.

Last year, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill to establish a voter ID requirement in law. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it.

So this year the GOP, with little Democratic support, passed the proposed constitutional amendment to establish a voter ID requirement. Proposed amendments go directly from the Legislature to voters, with the governor not officially involved.

But to pass a law providing voter ID details, the Legislature and governor must agree. Dayton insists that any election-related law have significant bipartisan support.

“We have got to put a bill on Gov. Dayton’s desk that he can sign,” Newman said.

The senator said that in an Indiana voter ID case, the U.S. Supreme Court provided some “broad guidelines” of acceptable laws.

However, a voter ID implementation law could look much different if Democrats, who oppose it, take control of the Legislature than if Republicans hold onto the majority in next month’s election.

If the amendment passes, Winkler said, lots of changes would be needed.

“We have pages and pages of election law in state statute and state regulations and we have 87 counties and umpteen cities with election policies and procedures that they follow,” Winkler said. “If you pass a constitutional amendment, all of those laws, all of those rules, all of those procedures have to follow the constitutional amendment.”

The Democrat said he does not expect court cases to wait until the Legislature acts. He predicted that if the amendment passes, its supporters immediately would ask a court to declare existing absentee ballot, same-day registration and other election laws unconstitutional.

After the Legislature and governor enact new election law, lawsuits are likely.

“It could be messy and drag out for a long time,” Winkler said.

Among issues the Legislature, and perhaps the courts, would need to decide:

– Photo ID. The proposed amendment says the photo ID must be government issued, but a specific definition is needed, such as whether a state college ID would be accepted.

– Provisional balloting. A voter who does not take a photo ID to the polling place would be allowed to cast a ballot, but that ballot would go into a box and not be counted until the voter shows elections officials an ID. The Legislature would need to decide how soon the voter needed to produce the ID.

– Absentee and mail-in ballots. Voters who cast absentee ballots by mail could not show a photo ID to election officials. Neither could those in rural precincts that allow all voters to mail in ballots. So legislators would need to decide how they would comply with what the proposed amendment said in those cases must be “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification.”

– Free ID. While most people assume the state Public Safety Department would provide IDs to those without any, how that happens is up to the Legislature. Also, there is a question about whether the state would pay fees, such as needed to obtain a birth certificate, that would be needed to receive an ID.

– Funding. Like with all appropriations, the Legislature would need to find money to pay for the voter ID requirement.


Is voter photo ID ballot question misleading?

Supreme Court (Pool photo by Glen Stubbe)

Minnesota Supreme Court justices are considering whether a question about voter photo identification on the Nov. 6 ballot is misleading.

More fundamentally, they are asking themselves if they even have the authority to deal with the issue.

The question is whether a proposed amendment requiring Minnesotans to present photographic identification before voting is accurately summarized on the ballot. The League of Women Voters, Common Cause and others say the court should remove the amendment from the ballot because the Legislature-approved summary would mislead voters.

During a Tuesday hearing, six justices hearing the case (Justice Helen Meyer is retiring and is not taking part) asked pointed questions to attorneys on both sides.

A decision is expected before late August to give election officials time to revise the ballot if needed.

In the meantime, legislative backers of the amendment said Tuesday they plan a lawsuit of their own, asking the court to reject a title Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has assigned the ballot question. Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and Rep. Marry Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, say only the Legislature has that power.

A similar suit already is under way, and set for a July 31 high court hearing, over a title Ritchie rewrote for a second amendment proposal voters are to decide this fall. That amendment would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Attorney Bill Pentelovitch told justices Tuesday that they have a duty to cancel the photo ID vote because the question on the ballot “would mislead a voter of common intelligence.”

He said the summary does not tell voters that requiring a photo ID would require “provisional ballots.” Those are ballots cast by people without a photo ID that would be set aside and not counted until the voters produce a photo ID.

Provisional balloting never has been used in Minnesota, although it does exist in other states.

Pentelovitch also said the amendment basically would eliminate same-day voter registration and make other changes to the Minnesota election system that voters would not know by reading their ballots.

Attorney Tom Boyd, representing the Republican-controlled Legislature, told the justices that the question was not misleading, but in any case they have no authority to stop the public vote. Voters can read the full amendment and make up their minds, he said.

However, Boyd did offer justices a way out. In answering a question, he said that if the justices ordered the entire proposed amendment printed on the ballot, that would be the least objectionable change they could make.

Justice Paul Anderson told Pentelovitch that past cases he cited in arguments may not apply.

“I think you are looking at a blanker slate than you may think,” Anderson said, indicating justices never have ruled on a similar case.

Anderson said the case is important: “It doesn’t get much bigger than this.”

Justice Alan Page said that while the wording voters would see says everyone would need to show a photo ID, that may not be the case. The full proposed amendment indicates that absentee voters would be held to “substantially equivalent” standards, which the justice said might not be a photo ID.

During legislative hearings, the “substantially equivalent” phrase was adopted because some lawmakers said military members and other absentee voters may not be able to produce a photo ID in person.

Boyd said he could not say what “substantially equivalent” means because that would be decided by next year’s Legislature if the amendment passes Nov. 6.

Anderson and Justice David Stras said the state Constitution makes it clear that a proposed amendment must go to a public vote if the Legislature properly passes it, and there is no evidence lawmakers did anything improper in approving the amendment.

Pentelovitch, however, argued that the justices must consider a misleading amendment. “You are the traffic cops.”

Anderson asked, “Don’t people have a right to vote on something that is not deceptive?” Boyd shot back his argument that only the Legislature can decide constitutional amendments.

Page wondered out loud if the ballot question is “bait and switch” to gloss over election system changes the amendment could bring.

—-

Here is the proposed constitutional 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.”

—-

This is the language voters would see on their Nov. 6 ballots:

“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?”

 

Voter photo ID heads to Minnesotans

Now it’s up to the voters.

Minnesotans will decide on Nov. 6 whether showing photographic identification before casting ballots should be required.

The Legislature approved the Republican-backed constitutional amendment proposal Wednesday, the Senate 35-29 and the House 72-57. The vote fell along party lines other than Republican Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona’s “no” vote.

“The voters in the state of Minnesota have the opportunity to decide whether or not they agree with us,” said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, author of the bill.

The question on the ballot to voters will be: “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?”

Those backing the bill said the requirement would protect against voter fraud and improve the state’s elections.

“It will restore confidence in the integrity of the system,” Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said.

“We’re trying to create the message that when you vote, your vote counts,” added Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo.

Opponents raised a number of concerns, including that the requirement could make it difficult for many to vote, especially the elderly, disabled, minorities and students.

“The only thing this amendment can possibly accomplish is to deny an eligible voter the right to vote,” Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said.

They also were concerned about the cost of implementation and enforcement and the elimination of same-day registration. The proposed amendment would create provisional balloting, which allows people without an ID to vote, but return to a clerk’s office within a set time period to show proper identification.

Democratic Sens. Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids and Tony Lourey of Kerrick also wondered about the amendment’s effect on mail-in ballots, common in rural areas.

“It is absolutely unclear what that is going to look like,” Lourey said.

Too many questions remain unanswered, Democrats said.

“The practical implications of this are what really get messy,” Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said.

Republicans pointed out that if voters approve the amendment, the next Legislature would hammer out the specifics of the process and discussions on details could continue then. The ID requirement would go into effect starting with the Nov. 5, 2013, election.

Opponents could attempt to derail the amendment in court.

The governor is not officially involved in constitutional amendments, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he opposes it and vetoed a similar piece of legislation last year. He said he was disappointed the efforts were not collaborative and dismissed claims that voter fraud is a problem in Minnesota.

“We have the highest voter turnout year after year and under intense, bipartisan scrutiny, the recent statewide recounts have highlighted how reliable the results are,” he said.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, another Democrat, also opposes the amendment.

When the House and Senate versions of the bill were combined, Sen. John Howe’s addition of the words “or equivalent” to the photo ID requirement was removed, among other changes. He had said that would make it easier to keep up with technology changes.

The Red Wing Republican said Wednesday he would “respect the process” and voted in favor of the bill.

Voter photo ID heads to Minnesota ballot

By Danielle Nordine

A proposal requiring Minnesotans to show photographic identification before voting passed through the state Legislature today.

The proposed constitutional amendment passed the Senate 35-29 this afternoon, hours after the House passed it 72-57. Voters will decide the issue in the Nov. 6 election.

The proposed constitutional amendment would require all voters to show a government-issued photo ID to vote. The state would be required to provide free IDs to those who need them.

Those backing the bill said it will protect against voter fraud and improve Minnesota’s election system.

“This bill takes that integrity one step further,” said Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester.

Opponents said they worry the requirement could make it difficult for many to vote, especially the elderly, minorities and students. They also said the ID requirement could eliminate same-day voter registration and be expensive and difficult to enforce.

“The only thing this amendment can possibly accomplish is to deny an eligible voter the right to vote,” Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said.

“We are truly not targeting any class of voters except those voters not eligible to vote or doing so illegally,” said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, the bill author.

The governor cannot veto or approve the bill because it would be a constitutional amendment, but Gov. Mark Dayton has said he opposes it.

The proposed amendment would create provisional balloting, which allows people without an ID to vote, but return to a clerk’s office within a set time period to show proper identification.

If voters approve the amendment, the next Legislature would hammer out the details. The requirement would be effective during elections occurring on and after Nov. 5, 2013, Newman said.

Legislative notebook: Senate takes up voter ID Friday

Newman

The question of whether to require voters to produce photo identifications is in the hands of Minnesota senators.

The Senate rules committee Wednesday advanced to the full Senate a bill similar to one the House passed earlier in the day. The Senate is to begin debate on the measure Friday afternoon.

If the Republican-controlled Senate agrees with the House, which approved the measure 72-62, Minnesota voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to amend the state Constitution to include the photo ID requirement. The House vote was partisan, with Republicans supporting the proposal.

In the Senate committee, Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, asked bill sponsor Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, if he could point out any voter fraud his photo ID bill would have fixed in recent elections.

“No, I cannot,” Newman said, adding that he will try to find some examples before the Senate takes up the bill.

Democrats dominated the House debate, failing to convince Republicans to amend the bill to fix what they called flaws.

At midnight, Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said the Republican-pushed proposal was a rash decision “made in the middle of the night.”

Democrats argued that there is no fraud and no need to require a photo ID.

“Your word is your bond,” Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, said.

“This amendment is wrong for Minnesota, it is wrong for America and it is wrong for who you are and for who I am,” Gauthier said.

Brodkorb files complaint

Michael Brodkorb Wednesday filed a federal complaint saying that the Minnesota Senate illegally fired him.

The former Senate Republican communications director was fired in December, the day after his boss, Sen. Amy Koch, resigned as Senate majority leader.

Michel, Fischbach

Brodkorb attorney Phillip Villaume said he has tried to get the Senate to engage in mediation. Senate officials say they do not plan to mediate the dispute, but Villaume said Brodkorb still is interested in working out an agreement.

Brodkorb’s Wednesday complaint was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Brodkorb’s attorneys said he and Koch were engaged in an affair. The ex-staffer said that while he was fired, female Senate employees who have had affairs with male senators kept their jobs.

A formal lawsuit is expected to be filed soon against the Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman and the Senate.

Also on Wednesday, Senate leaders scheduled a noon Friday ethics committee meeting to deal a complaint against Sen. Geoff Michele of Edina about his handling of Brodkorb’s firing.

Bonding advances

A public works funding bill much smaller than the governor wants advanced Wednesday out of the House Capital Investment Committee.

To be funded by the state selling bonds, the $208 million package concentrates on fixing state buildings. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton recommends spending $776 million.

Democrats said the House Republican-written bill is far too small.

“The meager bonding bill passed today is a missed opportunity to invest in infrastructure for permanent jobs that are vital to the state’s economic recovery,” Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said on Wednesday.

Hausman offered a bill spending more, but Republicans rejected it.

“This is not money that just falls down like down like manna from heaven,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said.

He said that even if new facilities can be afforded, “for everything we build, we have to maintain it.”

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, received bipartisan support to amend the bill with a provision requiring Minnesota-made, electricity-producing solar panels on all new state buildings.

Committee Chairman Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he expects the full House to vote on the bill in early April. A Senate bonding bill is expected in the next few days.

Drazkowski

Legislative notebook: Ethics complaint filed in Senate sex scandal

Bakk

A couple of Democrats say the interim leader of the Minnesota Senate lied to reporters about a sex scandal in December and one of them filed an ethics complaint Monday.

“There should be a public apology on the floor of the Senate,” Sen. Sandy Pappas of St. Paul said about Sen. Geoff Michel.

Michel and three other senators abruptly called a news conference last December, minutes after a reporter tweeted that Amy Koch, who a day earlier resigned her post as Senate majority leader, had an improper relationship with an employee.

In the December news conference, the Edina Republican said he knew of the affair

Michel

between Koch and aide Michael Brodkorb for “a couple of weeks.” Later, it was learned that he had known about the relationship for more than a couple of months.

While Pappas alone signed the ethics complaint against Michel, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, joined her in announcing the complaint. Pappas said “a couple” of other senators refused her request to sign the complaint.

Bakk and Pappas questioned why Michel, who became interim leader after Koch resigned, told reporters he knew about the affair two weeks when he actually knew about it far longer. They also said Michel should have acted immediately when he learned about the affair in September instead of waiting to confront Koch in December.

Pappas said that Michel’s lack of action affects the integrity of the Senate. Bakk said it placed dishonor on the institution.

Michel said Bakk and Pappas are just playing politics.

“The DFL wants a few more headlines,” Michel said. “The conflict of interest has been resolved. The workplace environment has improved. And, we did this while protecting whistleblowers and staff.”

The Senate ethics committee must consider the Pappas complaint within 30 days.

Bakk said Koch has suffered by resigning her leadership post and he knows of no senators planning to take an ethics action against her.

Brodkorb was suspected as the staffer involved with Koch, but that was not confirmed until his attorneys talked to the media last week. They are preparing a lawsuit against the Senate, saying that he was fired from his job but women employees have not been fired after having affairs with male senators.

Racino bill fails

A committee defeated a bill to add casinos to Minnesota’s two horse-racing tracks, even though the Senate majority leader and deputy majority leader pushed the proposal.

The Senate State Government Committee handed the racino bill an 8-5 defeat Monday. While the issue could arise again this legislative session, it has not passed in years and its loss in a key committee makes its advance very unlikely.

The bill originally would have provided up to $120 million a year the state would receive for economic development. The committee quickly changed the benefactor to schools, to help repay $2.2 billion in delayed state aid.

Eventually, the committee made another change, opting to use the money for merit-based scholarships given to students headed to colleges, universities and trade schools.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said that he could support either the school payback or the scholarship idea because either could save the state’s horse industry, which he said otherwise may not survive more than two or three more years.

“It is about making that industry grow and flourish in Minnesota,” Senjem said.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, offered an amendment that the committee accepted to require the county where a racino is located to hold a referendum approving the slot machines.

The racino plan has been considered as a way to fund a new Vikings stadium,

Voter ID vote set

The House likely will approve on Tuesday a constitutional amendment proposal requiring voters to show photographic identification before casting ballots.

Republican leaders are confident they have the votes to pass the measure. A similar proposal has one committee hearing remaining before reaching the full Senate.

The House rules committee on Monday approved the plan, which would need voter approval Nov. 6, on a party-line 13-10 vote.

Democrats accused House Majority Leader Matt Dean of rushing committee debate. But he said the committee only was to look at a limited part of the bill.

Dayton lobbies council

Gov. Mark Dayton tried Monday to convince two undecided Minneapolis City Council members to support a new Vikings stadium in their downtown.

The two promised to consider Dayton’s request, he said. They are council members who have not taken a public position and whose votes appear to be needed for a stadium.

The stadium bill is stalled in a Senate committee because the plan to fund stadium construction loans by increased charity pulltab and bingo taxes with bars using electronic devices. Many lawmakers have said they want a backup financing plan in case charitable gambling proceeds are not enough.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said he expects a revised plan this week.

The Vikings, some Minneapolis leaders, Dayton and key state lawmakers propose a $975 million stadium next to the existing Metrodome.

A City Council decision may not be needed legally before the Legislature decides the issue, but Dayton and key stadium backers say the proposal cannot pass the Legislature without that support in advance.

“I think what the Legislature is looking for is a letter that’s clear that at least a majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council support the project,” Dayton said.

Dayton suggests budget changes

Dayton

Gov. Mark Dayton wants to tweak the state budget to return some funding to emergency health care programs for the poor, enact programs to produce jobs and fight an invasion of Asian carp.

In all, the Democratic governor Monday called for $60 million more spending in the current two-year budget, funded by closing what he calls loopholes in corporate tax law and increasing fees.

Highlights of the governor’s plan include:

– $35 million to give a tax credit for employers who employ veterans, students and unemployed Minnesotans.

– $2 million to increase veterans’ program spending.

– $17 million to restore some health-care funding for the poor, especially emergency care such as chemotherapy and dialysis, that was cut last year. About 1,000 Minnesotans would receive added emergency benefits.

– $4 million more to fight invasive Asian carp.

– $3 million to keep the Willmar Specialty Health Systems facility open through June 30, 2013; its funding now is slated to end at the end of this month.

– $542,000 for the White Earth Nation human services programs.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said he is especially pleased that Dayton wants to help veterans.

“As a veteran myself, I know how difficult the transition back to civilian life can be,” Persell said. “Given the sacrifices they have made to defend and protect our freedoms at home, we ought to do all that we can to support our vets and their families.”

For much of the increased spending, Dayton would do what many Democrats have proposed: reduce tax breaks corporations with foreign operations may receive.

“It is up to the Republicans whether to help Minnesotans or locate jobs over the ocean,” Dayton said.

“It’s a non-starter,” said Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, issued a strongly worded statement: “Gov. Dayton’s supplemental budget is a surprise and a shock. We have managed Minnesota’s budget well in the past year from a $5 billion budget deficit to over a $1 billion surplus and the first thing the governor wants to do is raise taxes. Embarrassing.”

The plan would fund fighting Asian carp by raising hunting, fishing and boat fees.

A group of conservation groups will announce Tuesday that they support raising hunting and fishing fees. The state’s Game and Fish Fund will go into deficit next year without new revenues.

The state’s two-year budget tops $30 billion.

Stadium bill ready

A bill to finance a new Vikings stadium was officially introduced in the House and Senate Monday, and the first committee hearing could come Wednesday.

The bill, first released on Friday, would fund a $975 million stadium on the current Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.

Since Friday, some lawmakers are concerned that the bill would have the state’s general fund used to repay stadium construction costs if pulltabs and bingo do not bring in as much state revenue as expected.

There also is a question about whether the Minneapolis City Council supports the plan, which for many is a requirement.

Gov. Mark Dayton said that many Minneapolis City Council members are at a national meeting this week in Washington, D.C. So they will not be available to commit to supporting a stadium bill as it begins its way through the Legislature.

Dayton encouraged Minnesotans to let their legislators know how they feel about a stadium. “People’s voices need to be heard.”

Joining Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, on the House version of the bill are Reps. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter; Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake; Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park; Greg Davids, R-Preston; Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul; Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck; and John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove.

In the Senate, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont is main sponsor, with co-sponsors Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.

‘Not enough attention’

Two mayors say that legislators have spent too little time on greater Minnesota needs this session.

Mayors Alan Oberloh of Worthington and Dave Larson of Bemidji wrote that rural cities are struggling economically, but legislators have spent their time on “politically divisive issues that don’t create jobs.”

As usual, the mayors’ prime concern was increasing state aid to cities.

“Property taxpayers in greater Minnesota have been hit harder by cuts to local aids and credits than their counterparts in the metro area,” the two wrote.

The pair also suggested that lawmakers help rural economic development.

“There’s been some signs of economic recovery in our nation and state, but we need to make sure Greater Minnesota isn’t left behind,” the mayors said.

Photo ID overturned

A second Wisconsin judge ruled on Monday that state’s requirement for voters to show photographic identification before castings ballots is unconstitutional.

Dane County Judge Richard Niess said the Wisconsin photo ID law “undermines the very foundation” of a government: “the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote.”

Minnesotans are watching the Wisconsin action, which likely eventually will be decided by a higher court, because Minnesota Republicans also are pushing a photo ID requirement.

However, the proposal making its way through the Minnesota Legislature would change the state’s Constitution to require photo IDs, making it less susceptible to court challenges.

If the House and Senate approve the plan, Minnesota voters will decide the issue on Nov. 6.