U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, joined by representatives of students, seniors and other affected groups, called on Minnesota Democrats to unify in opposition to a photo ID requirement for voting.
He said while most Minnesotans have a photo ID showing their current address, "that's not true of everybody. And this democracy has got to work for everybody." He said if an ID requirement turns away any voters, "our democracy would have suffered.''
Ellison, a Minneapolis Democrat in his third term, is circulating a resolution to be discussed and voted on at DFL precinct caucuses Tuesday night. It states that Democrats "oppose an amendment in the Minnesota Constitution to require an otherwise eligible voter to present a government-issued photo identification as a precondition to casting a vote in a Minnesota election.''
Republicans who control the Minnesota Legislature have introduced photo ID as a constitutional amendment and believe they have the votes to put it on the November general election ballot. If approved by voters -- and polls show strong support -- it would likely go into effect in the 2014 general election.
The issue is whether every voter, even those who have previously voted and been registered for years, is required to show a photo ID at the polls showing a current address in the precinct. Republicans say it will discourage fraud. Opponents like Ellison say there is no proof that there is a problem now that a photo ID would solve. They view it as an attempt by Republicans to suppress the vote of elderly, disabled and poor voters who are most likely not to have a current-address ID.
"Everybody does not have an ID,'' Ellison said. "But people who don't have them are as fully American as anyone."
Speaking for disabled Minnesotans at Ellison's Capitol news conference, Mai Thor said many people with disabilities are poor and do not have good IDs. "Our vote would essentially be suppressed," she said.
Cory Baird, a student at the University of St. Thomas, said many students will be excluded, particularly those from other states.
John Martin of St. Louis Park, director of the DFL's senior Caucus, said the photo ID requirement would be "making the right to vote into a privilege.''
Sadik Warfa, a U.S.citizen who came to the country from his native Somalia, said many eligible immigrants will be scared off by the idea of getting a particularly government-issued ID card to vote, and will be reminded of the "governments back home.'' Warfa said, "We have one of the most flexible voting systems in the nation.''