Photo ID provision clears 1st Senate committee

Will have more stops before it goes before full Senate

T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

The proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment on a partisan vote cleared the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15 after sometime brisk debate.

Committee Democrats — some of whom after committee accused Committee Chairman Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, of cutting them off — attacked the legislation as being confusing, unknowable and unjustified.

Republicans argued it reflected the will of the people.

But Sen. Kenneth Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, questioned whether voters in November, should the proposed Photo ID amendment be placed on the ballot, will realize that by voting for it they’re voting for property tax increases.

His local city officials believe they’ll have to hire more election judges to deal with a new Photo ID requirements.

“We don’t know what the Legislature, if this passes, will decide,” said Kelash of filling out the details of the legislation next year — assuming amendment passage.

Senate Photo ID bill author Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, modified the language of his legislation, saying that he had been listening to comments about the bill and tried to accommodate them.

But Beth Fraser, director of governmental affairs with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, diagnosed the revamp legislation as “significantly more confusing” and questioned what such phrases as “substantially equivalent eligibility verification” actually meant.

“It would definitely take additional election judges,” said Fraser of implementing the Photo ID legislation should it become law.

Fraser previously testified the Secretary of State’s Office does not support the Photo ID initiative.

Several Democrats on the committee complained that it was difficult to judge the Photo ID legislation because the details of future implementation will be decided by future lawmakers.

But Vandeveer steered the committee away from debate on what future lawmakers,  if the amendment passed, would need to address.

“We know they have to implement this. And there’s no way we can do this here,” he said.

Vandeveer initially deemed one Democratic amendment, which attempted to remove from the November ballot the proposed same-sex marriage ban constitutional amendment passed by the Republican Legislature last year, as out of order — having nothing to do with elections.

But Vandeveer relented, and the amendment on a partisan vote failed.

When pressed by a Democratic senator exactly why he was bringing the proposed Photo ID amendment forward, Newman said it was a response to complaints about the current election system that he had received from his constituents.

“I’m not so sure you’re going to believe me when I tell you,” he said.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said “someone had to be living under a rock” not to know that Photo ID was popular in general, and even popular with Democrats, according to the polls.

This is not the brainchild of a bunch of extremists, he argued.

But Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, said she believed the initiative really grew out of very few people.

Photo ID under Newman’s proposed amendment, if approved by voters, would go into effect for elections on or after June 30, 2014.

“I do like the 2014 date,” said Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan.

Robling spoke of mounting a public education campaign should the amendment be passed.

The Photo ID now heads to another Senate committee.

Vandeveer’s committee previously took public comment on the legislation.