A proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID before casting ballots continues to enjoy support of more than half the state's voters, a new Star Tribune Minnesota poll has found.
A total of 53 percent of those polled support the amendment, compared to 41 percent who oppose it and 6 percent undecided, the poll found. The survey of 800 randomly selected registered voters who said they are likely to vote was conducted Tuesday through Thursday.
With a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, the results are similar to those found in September, when 52 percent said they supported the amendment, 44 percent were opposed and 4 percent were undecided.
A constitutional amendment needs to win a majority of all voters casting a ballot, not just those voting on the amendment itself. That creates a slightly higher burden, because a voter who does not vote either way has in effect voted "no."
The recent numbers, like those in September, are a significant decline from the 80 percent support the issue drew in a May 2011 Star Tribune poll. But they appear to have stabilized as both sides make their final pitches.
Voters will be asked whether they support an amendment to the state Constitution that would "require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters."
The actual amendment language, which would not appear on the ballot, would require a "valid government-issued" ID, set up a system of two-step provisional voting for those without IDs, and standardize eligibility and identity verification with unknown effects on the current system. The amendment passed with all Republican votes and no DFL votes at the Legislature.
Supporters say the measure is needed to ensure that voters are who they say they are and to make the system more secure. Opponents view it as a barrier for poor, elderly and minority voters and believe the GOP is trying to suppress likely Democratic votes.
The poll also asked voters if they view voter fraud as a problem and if that viewpoint affected their view of the photo ID amendment.
On the question of fraud, 58 percent said they believed voter fraud in Minnesota is "not much of a problem" or "not a problem at all," compared to 36 percent who said it is a "major problem" or "somewhat of a problem."
Of the majority that believes fraud is not a problem, 66 percent opposed photo ID. But of the minority who believe fraud is a problem, 88 percent support photo ID.
Along party lines
Support also broke along party lines, with 88 percent of Republicans supporting the amendment and 70 percent of Democrats opposing it. However, photo ID supporters could take heart from the finding that nearly one in four Democrats supports the proposal.
Among voters who identified themselves as independents, photo ID was favored by a 50-43 percent margin.
Support was strongest in the metro suburbs and weakest in the Twin Cities. Among age groups, voters aged 35-49 expressed strongest support, while voters 65 and over were evenly divided.
Dan McGrath, head of the pro-ID group ProtectMyVote.com, said this poll and his own internal polling convince him that the amendment is headed for passage.
"Our internal polling is looking pretty good," he said. "Barring unforeseen circumstances -- there are still 11 days to go ... I think voter ID is going to pass on November 6th." Those who support the amendment, he said, are stronger in their belief than the opposition, which he called a "mushy middle."
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, a prominent photo ID opponent, said those seeking to defeat it remain within striking distance.
"I think the momentum in the last month has been incredible," he said. "The more people hear about this amendment proposal, the less likely they are to vote for it. It's a good place to be, as long as you have the resources to reach out and explain the details. That's the big question -- is there enough time?"
Simon said the anti-gay-marriage amendment "has taken up so much time, attention and resources, this one is only now starting to come into focus for a lot of people."
Rae Jean Kinzler of Moorhead, who participated in the poll, said the recount election of 2008 between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman convinced her that voter fraud is a problem for Minnesota. She said she supports the photo ID requirement as a way of having people prove their identity and residence.
"Our government demands that we prove that we have insurance for cars, or that we prove we're a legal age to drink," she said. "I don't want to exclude people, but we have to make things fair."
Ron Adams of Brooklyn Park, a poll respondent, said that claims of voter fraud are "quite foolish" and that an ID requirement would be unfair for many people.
"It's kind of a way to suppress the vote," he said. "We ought to make it easier to vote, not make it harder." He said he is concerned that elderly voters born in other states would have a hard time assembling documents to get the acceptable ID. "When they've been voting all their adult lives, it doesn't make sense to me," he said.
Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042