ID swiped at Voter ID test site
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Supreme Court will decide next month whether or not the proposed voter photo ID constitutional amendment stays on the ballot.
At issue is whether the question, as worded on the ballot, omits important information voters need to know before voting it up or down.
That wording is simple enough, to wit:
"Shall the constitution be amended to require all voters to present photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters?"
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the former Secretary of State who was chief author of the voter ID amendment in the Minnesota House, defends the wording.
"This really changes the system from an after-the-fact check-you-out, to a before-you-cast-your-ballot let's verify," Rep. Kiffmeyer said.
"This is a very modest one section, and the core of the whole constitutional change is requiring photo ID."
Kiffmeyer and others envision it will work something like that trial run the republican party did in Stillwater the night of the GOP caucuses in February.
That night, voters appeared at a registration table and volunteers scanned their Minnesota drivers licenses to obtain their current addresses and names.
But the idea has prompted a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other voter advocacy groups, who contend that the ballot question omitted several key changes that will be made to the constitution if the ballot question succeeds.
"We're hoping the Minnesota Supreme Court can clarify that by really sort of deciding whether the question is misleading and deceptive," Mike Dean, of Common Cause MN, said.
Common Cause is among the groups that fought against the photo ID amendment in the legislature, out of a concern it will inadvertently strip voting rights from elderly, students and highly mobile low income voters -- people who don't often update the addresses on their ID cards.
If the issue passes, a total of 106 words will be added to the state constitution, compared to just 32 words on that ballot question. It's not unusual for ballot questions to be shorter than the changes they'll make in the constitution.
But the question the high court must decide is whether those differences amount to deception. There's no mention on the ballot question that those voters who show up with government-issued, up-to-date identification will only be allowed to cast provisional ballots.
Those ballots won't be counted until the voter's ID is verified, and that must be done in the days following the election.
"And so what we're arguing is that the question is not reflective of the constitutional amendment change that they're making," Dean said. "We're saying that essentially they're leaving off key components that we think voters need to be aware of."
The amendment would also dictate that voters who register on election day undergo "substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification" as those who pre-register to vote.
That causes critics to ask how poll workers will verify the identities of first-time voters on the the spot.
"The technology just isn't there to require it on election day, so some of these precincts will have to hold off counting provisional ballots and reporting final results for days, even weeks."
Kiffmeyer discounts those concerns as "fear mongering" by those who are fundamentally opposed to the amendment in the first place. She predicted that most voters who register on the day of the election will get regular ballots, rather than provisional ones.
"How will their identity be verified? The fact they're holding the ID in their hand is first of all verification that they are who they say they are," Kiffmeyer said.
The Republican leadership in the Legislature filed a motion to intervene in the Supreme Court case, which will be heard July 17 at 1:30 p.m.
Kiffmeyer said she hopes the c ourt leaves the issue on the ballot, out of respect for the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches.
"We're defending the right of the Legislature, both in the ballot question language and the Legislature's authority to place changes in the constitution on the actual ballot for the people to vote on," she added.
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