ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota Republican leaders unveiled a new and controversial possibility for a constitutional amendment on Tuesday.
They want to require voters to show a photo ID when they cast a ballot.
The announcement came just one week after Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill, calling it too partisan. The amendment would go on the 2012 election ballot.
Public opinion surveys show up to 80 percent of Minnesotans support voter ID, an unusually high number in politics, and a powerful incentive for Republicans who have been trying to pass it for years.
“Elections and the right to vote is probably the most important right that we have,” said Republican Senator Scott Newman from Hutchinson, the chief Senate author of the bill. “We have to protect it.”
But Minnesota elections officials said there’s little evidence of voting irregularity.
In 2008 for example, Ramsey County had 278,000 voters. County officials said they later charged 61 felons for illegal voting, and 19 other for illegally registering to vote.
That’s a compliance rate of 99.97 percent.
“It strikes me that with a small problem you are attempting to deal with it with a very onerous and disproportionate solution,” said Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections director.
Voter ID bills are advancing around the country. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker recently signed one into law.
The Badger State is one of 13 passing new voter restrictions in just the last two months.
And the chief sponsor of Minnesota’s bill, the former Secretary of State, calls it a ‘safeguard’ against what might happen here.
“How do i know if that’s a stranger, that they are who they say they are, and any proof of where they live?” asked Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake. “You don’t know. ”
Democrats said voter ID is part of a national Republican strategy to suppress turnout, when the focus should be Minnesota’s budget.
“Republicans are unable to enact a balanced budget into law,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler Golden Valley. “Yet they are able to kowtow to the extreme base of their party.”