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Politics shakes up forum on Voter ID amendment

Paul Demko//October 8, 2012//

Politics shakes up forum on Voter ID amendment

Paul Demko//October 8, 2012//

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Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

On Tuesday night there will be a debate on the proposed constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. But the lineup of individuals slated to discuss the merits of the proposal has changed significantly in  recent days.

Originally it was supposed to be Minnesota Majority executive director Dan McGrath and Northwestern College professor Kent Kaiser arguing in favor of the amendment and ACLU lobbying coordinator Carolyn Jackson and League of Women Voters public policy manager Sherri Knuth speaking in opposition. A staffer from Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie‘s office was scheduled to attend and provide impartial information about the proposed amendment.

But after Kaiser dropped out last Wednesday, owing to a scheduling conflict, it set off a domino effect that shook up the panel. Kaiser was replaced by GOP state Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the chief author of the photo ID legislation (and Kaiser’s former boss at the Secretary of State’s Office). That change prompted both the League of Women Voters and the Secretary of State’s Office to pull out of the event, according to Jon Brandt, chair of the Maplewood Human Rights Commission, which is sponsoring the debate. Brandt says he was told that they feared the event would become too politically charged with the inclusion of a state legislator.

Last week GOP Sens. Scott Newman and Mike Parry filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings charging that Ritchie had wrongly utilized public resources to lobby against the photo ID amendment and spread inaccurate information. The League of Women Voters has been criticized by Republicans for weighing in on the voter ID issue, with some candidates refusing to participate in forums sponsored by the group.

But the event will go forward with two voices on each side of the issue: former Gov. Arne Carlson has agreed to fill in for Knuth. The event is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. at Maplewood City Hall. Brandt expects an overflow crowd for the event. It will be televised on Channel 16 in the northeast metro suburbs.

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