Voter ID amendment gets first debate

1:53 AM, Feb 2, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - A parade of people filed into a Senate hearing Wednesday afternoon to debate perhaps the most controversial topic in the 2012 legislative session -- voter identification.

Of the more than 30 people who testified, only a handful were in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring people to show a government issued photo ID when they vote.

Republicans, who control the legislature, want to circumvent Democratic Governor Mark Dayton's veto pen, and put that amendment on the ballot this November.

If people don't have an ID, the state would offer them one free of charge.

"A new voter ID would disproportionately affect older voters because we know they're less likely to have the required identification," said Amy McDonough, a spokesperson with AARP.

AARP, or American Association of Retired Persons, which represents people over the age of 50, is against the measure.

McDonough claims one out of five people over 65 don't have a photo ID.

Ilo Madden testified it took her all day recently to jump through the hoops of getting an ID, and when it finally arrived in the mail, it was wrong.

"My voice and my vote are two of the few ways to protect this democracy which I love," said Madden.

Opponents also worry it would be more difficult for college students who typically vote absentee and minorities.

But, those in favor of the constitutional amendment believe more needs to be done to curb voter fraud.

"It's almost like the testifiers think there are army of ninjas that they have to hand-to-hand combat their way through the DPS(Department of Public Safety) station in order to get their free identification card," said Dan McGrath with Minnesota Majority.

Legislators delayed a vote because the hearing lasted so long. The committee's chairman tells KARE 11 a vote should take place next week.

Beth Fraser, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, testified against the bill. She says 215,000 registered voters in Minnesota currently don't have a valid or current ID.

Wednesday's hearing is the first of what is expected to be many battles with the bill's author confident Republicans will win the war.

"I think if you want to talk about overwhelming numbers, most Minnesotans are in favor of this measure," said State Senator Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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