Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have passed legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls on election day.
The bill, which comes with about a $5 million price tag, passed today on a party line vote of 37 to 26. Under the legislation, any voter currently without identification could get one for free, if they present other documents. Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the measure will help modernize the state's voting system. Limmer also said it would bring integrity back to that system.
"The public deserves to have confidence in the integrity of our election system," Limmer said. "And nothing inspires confidence like a well-ordered system that's secure and safe for the voter, and photo identification would certainly accomplish that."
Democrats argued the requirement would prevent many elderly and poor from voting. They say the bill is also an unnecessary cost at a time when the state budget has a $5 billion deficit. Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, the only African American in the state Senate, said he thinks many people of color would be disenfranchised.
"To say that that's not a poll tax I think is disingenuous," Harrington said. "My read of what a poll tax was historically was that it's a pre-condition for the right to vote. Whether it's de facto or implicit, it's still a pre-condition. And that's what this photo ID does is it creates a pre-condition to the right to vote."
Gov. Mark Dayton has also raised concerns about the need for a voter ID bill, but he regularly stops short of threatening a veto. A veto would slow, but not end the photo ID effort. Republican supporters have already introduced legislation to put the issue on the statewide ballot in 2012 as a proposed constitutional amendment. That process bypasses the governor and gives voters the power to approve the requirement.