The Minnesota Council of Churches announced its opposition to the proposed photo ID constitutional amendment Tuesday, saying the amendment seems "innocuous" but could end up threatening Minnesotans' right to vote.
"If there ever was a reason to vote, the time is now," said Rev. Peg Chamberlain, executive director of the Council. "Vote, to save the right to vote."
The group's target was a proposed amendment that will appear on the ballot on Nov. 6. If voters approve, the amendment would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID, would set up a new two-step system of provisional voting for those without the approved ID, and would require "substantially equivalent" eligibility and identity verification for all voters.
Supporters say the amendment is needed to prevent fraud, and say no legitimate voters would be affected by the requirement. Opponents say fraud is minuscule and would not be stopped by the measure, which they believe would disenfranchise voters without the required IDs.
""The voter ID amendment seems innocuous enough," Chamberlain said. "But when we started to unwrap all that it means we began to see the threat this could pose to the right to vote for tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Minnesotans."
Bishop Peter Rogness, president of the Council and bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the organization is following the path of Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, the state's largest faith-based social service agencies, in opposing the amendment.
"For over two centuries, across the history of this nation, we have grown in our understanding of 'We the People," Rogness said. "From a time when only the landed gentry could vote, to removing barriers of race, and later barriers of gender, we have sought to widen the circle of that fundamental phrase, 'We the people.' This amendment goes the other direction -- it begins to constrict the circle."