GOP-backed voter ID bill goes to House committeeby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A Republican bill that would require voters to show a photo ID will go before a House committee Wednesday.
The bill's supporters have argued that Minnesota needs stricter voting laws to prevent fraud. Democrats have accused GOP lawmakers of trying to block traditional Democratic constituencies, including students and the poor, from voting.
"I do not see it as a partisan issue," state Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, one of the bill's authors, told MPR News on Wednesday. "The access, the accuracy, the integrity, privacy of your vote, those should all be in balance with one another."
The GOP bill would require that the state purchase electronic ID card readers for local governments and provide free photo IDs to those voters who can't afford them.
The Secretary of State's office has said it would cost more than $20 million to outfit the polling sites with electronic verification systems.
Kiffmeyer said that figure "is just way out of line." She said the changes could save cities money by reducing the number of recounts and speeding up the voting process.
"No more of those 'A through K' lines and 'L through' whatever, and then you see the long line here and the short line there," she said. "Now just swipe your card, move on, and vote."
Many Democratic lawmakers say Republicans are less concerned about voter fraud and more concerned about restricting access to the polls. State Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said there's no evidence Minnesota needs tougher voting laws.
"We don't have any reported cases of voter impersonation, people going in to pretend to be somebody else to vote," Winkler said. "We have zero evidence that that happens at all in Minnesota ever."
Winkler said the two recent statewide recounts showed the integrity of Minnesota's election system.
"The fact is that we should be proud of our election system, rather than looking for ways to make it more challenging and more difficult for some people to come to the polls," he said.
Kiffmeyer said that although there have been no reports of voter impersonation, that doesn't mean it isn't happening.
"How do you know somebody isn't impersonating if you don't even have an ID to compare it to?" she said. "College kids would say to me, 'Man, I could bust this system so easy if I wanted to.' They're being honest on their own, but it just kind of bothers them."
The bill's supporters have said the legislation is modeled after an Indiana voter ID requirement, which the Supreme Court has upheld.
The House Government Operations and Elections Committee will review the legislation at a 10:15 a.m. meeting.
(MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.)
- Morning Edition, 02/03/2011, 6:50 a.m.