Opponents of the plan to require voters to submit a photo ID at the polls say they worry that it would eliminate election-day registration, which has helped drive up the state's voter turnout.
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, which both oppose photo ID for voters, said combining a photo ID requirement with new eligibility verification rules could eliminate same-day registration. Minnesota is one of about a dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day.
“We think that puts EDR at risk,’’ Sherri Knuth, said public policy coordinator for the League, using the abbreviation for Election Day Registration. Susie Brown of the Council of Nonprofits said same-day registration has contributed to the state’s high voter participation rates. In 2008, 18.5 percent of all voters registered on Election Day, and the number has been higher than 20 percent several times. In fact, the groups said, more than 30 percent of current Minnesota legislators have used election day registration at some time.
The author of the proposed amendment, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, declined to comment on the issue on Tuesday. His aide said Newman believes that both same-day registration and absentee voting will be protected under the proposed amendment.
Newman’s original bill would put the issue to voters in November as a proposed constitutional amendment. They would decide whether to require that all voters present acceptable photo ID before voting; that all voters would be subject to the same verification standards; and whether ID cards would be provided free of charge.
An amendment posted on the website of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, which is to take up the bill on Wednesday, adds a section covering "those not voting in person," and said they must provide "government-issued proof of identity at the time of voting." It also states that the change would take effect on June 30, 2014.
The Republican-controlled Legislature supports the photo ID concept, saying it is a reasonable security measure to confirm voters’ identity. DFLers have opposed it, saying it will not deter fraud but will make it harder for some people to vote.
Last year, Republicans submitted the Photo ID concept as a bill, which DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed. The bill allowed for same-day registration but under somewhat different circumstances. In Wisconsin, which will begin requiring Photo IDs at the polls this year, same-day registration will continue to be allowed, a state elections official said.
Pat Turgeon, spokeswoman for DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who opposes photo ID, said Wisconsin's law is "completely different" from the photo ID amendment being considered in Minnesota. She said Ritchie fears it would eliminate same-day registration along with voting by mail and absentee voting.
Dan McGrath, head of the pro-photo ID group Minnesota Majority, denied that the bill would halt same-day registration or affect mail and absentee balloting. He said the ID requirement will end the process of "vouching," in which a registered voter vouches for the address of an unregistered voter at the polls. The change will require each same-day registrant to have photo ID and to submit to the same eligibility verification process that applies to all registered voters, he said.
The Senate committee heard testimony on the bill last week and plans to discuss and vote on it on Wednesday. The meeting is at 1 p.m. in room 15 of the Minnesota State Capitol.