As promised on the campaign trail and during the 2010 gubernatorial recount, Republican legislators are using their new-found majorities in both chambers to push a bill to require photo identification at the polls.
Flanked by House Republicans at a Capitol news conference Wednesday, Sen. Warren Limmer said the bill “secures election integrity for the people of Minnesota.” He and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer are the lead authors of the bill in their respective chambers.
The bill would require residents to present a state driver’s license, state-issued identification card or tribal identification card when casting ballots. Residents without other approved photo identification could receive free state-issued identification cards by providing proof they are at least 18 years old, are a United States citizen and have lived in the state for at least 20 days.
The bill also requires each precinct have an electronic roster machine, which voters would sign and hand off a printed receipt to election judges. The state would have to front the initial cost and the upkeep of the machines. Kiffmeyer said she did not have an estimate for the total cost to the state. Precincts with less than 100 people would be exempt from the electronic roster portion of the bill.
“We should do things right up front instead of going to recounts,” Kiffmeyer said, referring to the machines. She said having electronic roster machines during the 2010 gubernatorial recount would have made sure there were as many people registered to vote as ballots cast.
DFL Rep. Steve Simon said there is no evidence of statewide voter fraud that would justify the need for the bill, adding that the elderly and disabled would have difficulty voting under the proposal. He also raised the issue of the unknown cost of the bill in face of a $6.2 billion deficit.
“It’s a risk we can’t afford,” he said.
DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler, Golden Valley, called the bill a “partisan ploy” by Republicans to keep people who may vote for Democrats away from the polls. The bill has several dozen GOP co-authors, and no DFL support.
In a statement, DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said election law changes “should be made with bi-partisan support,” and an analysis should be conducted on the cost of the proposal. “This omnibus bill contains a wide range of expansive and expensive election law changes,” he said.