Photo ID amendment passes Minnesota Senate, 36-30

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

You need to have a photo ID to dump leaves in the City of Maple Grove, said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.

The Republican Senate passed its proposed Photo ID constitutional amendment March 23, taking one of the last actions needed to ensure the amendment appears on the ballot in November.

Senate debate mirrored debate in the House earlier in the week when that body passed its proposed Photo ID amendment.

Democrats argued that Photo ID would disenfranchise minorities, the young, the old, while Republicans depicted the provision as common sense.

“This bill in my opinion represents Main Street,” said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd.

You need a Photo ID to buy a gun, Gazelka explained. Is voting any less important?

“I don’t think so,” Gazelka said.

Rather than limiting, argued Limmer, requiring a photo ID to vote could as serve as an incentive to people outside the broad swath of Americans with photo IDs to to obtain one.

It could serve pull them more into the system, he argued.

“It actually encourages people to vote,” said Limmer.

Beyond this, you need a photo ID to do all sorts of everyday things — even to dump leaves in Maple Grove, he said.

“I’m not going to buy it,” said Limmer of linking Photo ID to the struggles of blacks in the 1960s struggling for the right to vote.

But Democrats were unsparing in their criticism.

Only the state of Mississippi, argued Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, took the constitutional amendment route with Photo ID that the Republican Senate was taking.

“I didn’t know we were in a race to the bottom with Mississippi,” said Goodwin.

Democrats offered more than a dozen amendments — Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, at one point castigating acting Senate President Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, for ignoring Democrats wishing to speak — but none of the amendments stuck.

Sen. Kenneth Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, attempted to provide $15 million to local government to cover election costs relating to amendment passage.

He also tried to include a warning on the Photo ID ballot question alerting voters that passage could impact local property taxes.

“That this isn’t something for nothing,” said Kelash argued of perceived financial costs relating to Photo ID.

But the Kelash amendments were voted down.

Democrats attempted to replace the proposed amendment with electronic poll book legislation.

Electronic poll books are a means of electronically tapping to state driver’s license records for photos of potential voters.

It’s a technology that Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has championed.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, spoke in support.

“This is a response to voter integrity,” she argued.

But Republicans saw things differently.

“It would eliminate that purpose entirely,” said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, of appealing to voters for clarity like a constitutional amendment.

The poll book amendment was ruled not germane.

The proposed Photo ID amendment passed the Senate on a 36 to 30 vote.

The language of the legislation is slightly different than the language passed by the House.