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House Committee gives party-line approval to Photo ID bill

Posted by: Jim Ragsdale under Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: March 13, 2012 - 7:19 PM

After a short discussion Tuesday evening, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to approve a proposed amendment to the state constitution requiring each voter to show a photo ID at the polling place.

The committee voted to approve the bill by an 18-12 margin, with Republicans supporting the bill and DFLers opposing it.

The bill, which would submit the issue to state voters in November, now heads to the House Rules Committee. The sponsor, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, a former Secretary of State who managed the state's election system, dealt with skepticism from DFL members on the committee during a brief question-and-answer period. No public testimony was taken.

Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, an African-American, described the struggles African-Americans endured for the right to become citizens with full voting rights.

"What can you say that's going to reassure people of color that this is not a new version of the poll tax in the year 2012?" asked Champion. Poll taxes, long since outlawed, required voters to pay for the right to vote.

"The courts have taken a look at this matter and said, 'This is not a poll tax,' " Kiffmeyer said.

She deflected many concerns about what kinds of IDs would be required, and what would happen to homeless veterans and students in college away from the home listed on their drivers' licenses. She said many questions would be answered when the 2013 Legislature fills in the details, after voters decide the issue in November.

Proposing the issue as a constitutional amendment skirts the opposition of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who vetoed a bill requiring photo ID last year. If approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, as appears likely, it will go onto the November ballot.

The issue remains polarized, drawing party-line votes consistently, with Republicans supporting it and DFLers opposing.

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