ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A House-Senate conference committee ironed out differences in the voter ID bill Monday night, setting the stage for final legislative votes on the proposed constitutional amendment.
If voters okay it next November, Minnesota voters will be required to present a government-issued photo ID to vote in future elections.
Both the House and the Senate are expected to pass the bill, which has been one of the Republican majority's top priorities of the 2011 and 2012 sessions.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who vetoed a statutory version of voter photo ID in 2011, has no power to stop a constitutional amendment passed by lawmakers. Dayton and other opponents say the requirement will trip up aging citizens, college students and poor persons who don't update their ID's every time they move.
The amendment, if okayed by voters, would take effect in the fall of 2013. That's assuming the legislature passes a set of rules that interpret the finer points of how the amendment will be enforced at polling places.
Once the amendment becomes election law, voters who appear at the polls without current a state-issued ID will only be allowed to cast provisional ballots. Those ballots won't be counted on election day, but will be added to final totals if the voter returns in a matter of days with acceptable proof of identity.
Minnesota's tradition of neighbors vouching for same-day registrants without current ID would end, according to the bill's chief author, former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. The state would provide free ID to those lacking it, she said, arguing that cost should not be a factor.
Opponents point out, however, that it costs money to retrieve the documentation required to procure state-issued ID cards. Sen. John Harrington, D - Minneapolis, said many elderly voters who grew up in other states would be hard-pressed to recover birth certificates.
Photo ID requirements in other states are subject court challenges, and some in Minnesota are threatening to sue if it is implemented here. Once the provision is embedded in the Constitution, however, it can't be challenged as a violation of the state constitution.
Earlier Monday the ACLU of Minnesota announced that no one will be able to claim the organization's $1,000 reward for finding a case of actual voter impersonation in the past 10 years.
The bounty, announced a month earlier, was intended to show how rare voter fraud is, especially the type that would conceivably be stopped by voter ID at polling places.
Minnesota Majority, the conservative group that supports the amendment, submitted the case of Barbara Ann Nyhammer of Andover. Nyhammer, a Christian mental health therapist, submitted an absentee ballot for her daughter in 2008, unaware that her daughter would vote in person in Mankato where she attended college.
An Anoka County judge dismissed the felony charge, after accepting Nyhammer's account that it was an honest mistake.
"This case, while an example of an adjudicated case, although not intentional -- even the judge stated that in the ruling -- would not have been impeded in any way the proposed amendment," Chuck Samuelson, the executive directors of the ACLU of Minnesota, told reporters.
"The amendment doesn't change the identity standard for absentee voters, because the don't appear at the polling place."
But Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority, said Samuelson "welshed on the deal" and said absentee balloting will be affected by the amendment.
"Absentee voting will change with the voter ID amendment. It will require that people submitting absentee ballots are subject to identity verification."
Exactly how that will happen has yet to be explained by the bill's chief author in the House, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer. Many of the details will be ironed out in enabling legislation to be passed during the 2013 session, if voters approve the amendment in November.
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