ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A state House committee has given the first stamp of approval to a Republican proposal that would require all Minnesotans to present a photo ID in order to vote.
The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the measure on a 9-6 vote with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.
Backers of the bill say requiring a picture ID would cut down on voter fraud and make the voting process more efficient. Critics say fraud is not a widespread problem in Minnesota elections and that the new requirement would be expensive and hard to administer.
“Those who steal don’t just stand there and say, ‘Hey! Here I am! I’m lying. This is not who I really am!’ You know the issue of the voter ID is to deter and to prove that,” said Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake.
WCCO’s Chad Hartman Interviews Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky Who Opposed Voter ID
The bill has a strong shot of getting through the Republican-controlled Legislature, but Gov. Mark Dayton says he believes it could create more problems than it solves. Dayton stopped short of a veto threat but says he’d prefer an independent commission study problems with election administration and suggest fixes.
The bill also eliminates Minnesota’s long-standing tradition of “vouching” for unregistered voters.
Supporters say it’s unworkable because it assumes everyone is honest.
“The danger of vouching is mainly that it is a faith-based system. They just trust you at face value that you are being honest that day,” Kiffmeyer said.
Jackie Emmer, the wife of failed-governor candidate Tom Emmer, was at the hearing — an exclamation point to Republican claims of widespread election fraud.
But an animated DFL Secretary of State said fraud is almost non-existant in Minnesota, challenging critics to prove it.
“People say to me, ‘We have to have photo ID because no one trusts our elections system. And I look around the room and I say, ’80 percent of you voted,’” Ritchie said.
In fact, Minnesota’s 80-percent voter turnout is No. 1 in the nation. No. 2 is Wisconsin.
Or, as the Secretary of State said, we can’t beat ‘em in football, but we can beat them in voting.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)