As the Republican-controlled Legislature marched toward putting a photo ID constitutional amendment on the ballot, DFLers offered an alternative identification plan aimed at halting the photo ID push.
Gov. Mark Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, joined by DFL legislators who oppose Photo ID, rolled out a plan to use existing driving records to identify voters, without them needing to show a photo ID. Sometimes called "electronic poll books," the idea is to use existing driving records at the polling places, either via a laptop computer or a printout, to visually identify each voter.
Those without a picture on file, Ritchie said, could have their picture taken at the polling place.
He and Dayton strongly oppose the Republican push to require all voters to show a photo ID when they vote. That proposal, sponsored in the House by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, Ritchie's predecessor as Secretary of State, was debated in the House Government Operations Committee and Elections Committee on Thursday. If approved by the Legislature, it would go before voters in November as a proposed constitutional amendment.
Dayton and Ritchie said they hope Republicans pull back from their ID push and embrace the technological option, which Ritchie said could be used cheaply and quickly in polling places.
Dayton said this could be a bipartisan proposal accomplished via state law, rather than a one-sided vote on a photo ID, which DFLers oppose. "It's a much better way of governing, it's a much better way of leading, it's a much better way of legislating,'' Dayton said.
Ritchie said he has been working with local election officials on the proposal using electronic poll books. He said having access to the state's driving-records database would allow poll workers to make "visual verification" of voters at the polling places. "It would be very simple and very inexpensive to simply bring those photos in from the Department of Motor Vehicles database," Ritchie said.
"We would avoid many of the problems people have pointed out," Ritchie said, including those who have stopped driving but whose photo may remain in the system. Those whose photos were not in the system could have their student ID scanned into the system, or have a picture taken at the polling place, Ritchie said.
For small townships, Ritchie said, the poll book names and pictures could be printed for poll workers.
Stiffener said she likes the poll book idea but only if it is used with a requirement that all voters show a photo ID, a measure that she will continue to press.
"Am electronic roster is not a substitute for an ID," Kiffmeyer said. She said her amendment will go forward.