The Senate's Local Government and Elections Committee, voting along party lines, approved a proposed photo ID constitutional amendment on Wednesday after a lengthy debate about how the new policy will affect the state's voting system.
With 8 Republicans supporting it and 6 DFLers voting no, the committee gave the bill its first legislative victory before a room packed with people who appeared to oppose the amendment. It now goes to the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee.
If approved by both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature, as is expected, the measure would put a proposed constitutional amendment to voters in November.
They would be asked: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended effective June 30, 2014, to require that all in-person voters present an approved form of government-issued photographic identification at the time of voting; that those not voting in person provide government-issued proof of identity at the time of voting; that all voters be subject to substantially equivalent eligibility verification before a ballot is cast or accepted; and that the state provide at no charge an approved photographic identification for voters?"
If voters approved the amendment, Minnesota would require all voters to show a photo ID, beginning in 2014.
The sponsor, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Indiana's photo ID law. He said the high court ruled that some additional burden can be imposed on voters in the interests of "protecting the integrity of our election."
DFL opponents questioned the need for the change, the effect on people without IDs, and the changes this would bring about in election-day registration and absentee voting. Newman said in many cases, these decisions will be up to future legislators, who would have to determine what is an "approved form of government-issued photographic identification" and other specifics.