Committee decision on proposed constitutional amendment was split along party lines.
DFLers and photo ID opponents supplied the criticism, but Republicans supplied the votes as an ID requirement for all voters passed its first committee test on Wednesday.
The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote, with eight Republicans supporting it and six DFLers opposing it.
A majority vote of the GOP-led Legislature could send the bill to the November ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment. If approved, the amendment would be in effect for the 2014 elections.
The sponsor, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, submitted a new and more complex version of the ballot question on Monday. It asks voters to decide three things: Whether to require all in-person voters to present "an approved form of government-issued photographic identification," whether those not voting in person (such as absentee voters) should have to provide "government-issued proof of identity" and whether all voters should be subject to "substantially equivalent eligibility verification standards." Voters also would decide whether the state should provide free photo IDs to eligible people.
DFLers who oppose photo ID and the secretary of state's office, which also opposes it, questioned the type of ID that would be required, whether the practice would end -- or greatly limit -- election-day registration, how much it would cost to implement and whether there was any evidence of the kind of voter-impersonation fraud a photo ID requirement could prevent.
"We should not be legislating by anecdote," Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, said after the meeting, referring to the lack of fraud evidence.
Newman quoted from a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Indiana's photo ID law to be constitutional. He said he based his proposed constitutional amendment on that ruling.
Newman said the majority held that some "barriers" to voting, such as requiring everyone to obtain and show a photo ID, were reasonable ways to ensure the integrity of a state's election system. He said that the next Legislature would have to determine what IDs should be required for in-person and absentee voting and how to handle votes by same-day registrants.
His proposal calls for "provisional" ballots, in which people could cast votes that would not be counted until an approved form of ID had been provided, within 10 days, to county officials. DFLers and Republicans differed on whether this arrangement would be a barrier or a benefit.
Newman said the practice would end "vouching," in which registered voters vouch for those who do not have an ID. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said vouching is often used to register those who live in nursing homes.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the right to vote is already restricted to adults, U.S. citizens and precinct residents. "It is a right, but it is a conditional right," he said.
Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042