MARSHALL - A proposed constitutional amendment that gained traction last year before being vetoed in bill form in May by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is getting new life already this legislative session.
The concept, which would require all voters to show an "approved form of photographic identification prior to voting," was introduced by Republican Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, who oversaw the state's voting system from 1999 to 2007. If it passes the Republican-controlled House and Senate, both of which have offered up its versions, it would go directly to the ballot in November, as the governor has no authority to veto a Legislature-approved amendment.
District 21A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said he supports the voter ID idea.
"It makes sense to me," he said. "If you're gonna be chasing a check or buying a case of beer, or any number of things, you have to show your ID. To me, it's a pretty common-sense thing. I think folks generally feel it's a good idea."
Republicans say voter ID would go a long way in protecting the integrity of the election process.
"There has been some potential issues of fraud," Swedzinski said. "This would make it one person, one vote. At the end of the day, putting it to the people to vote might be a good idea."
Swedzinski said that although it's the legislators' duty to represent their district and its constituents, voter ID is one case that he thinks voters want to have a voice on.
"I think it's generally good to let voters decide on issues," Swedzinski said. "I personally believe in referendums to raise taxes in communities; do you take that same mindset into these other issues, I don't know."
Opponents of the voter ID amendment are worried about the potential of voter disenfranchisement. One of them is DFL Rep. Lyle Koenen of Clara City, who doesn't think there is an issue, simply for the fact that voter fraud in Minnesota isn't a rampant problem.
"I would say ask the people who think it's a good idea, do they anticipate fraud in the future?" Koenen said. "There have been no cases of voter fraud in Minnesota."
Koenen is also concerned with any costs at the state and local levels that would come up if voter ID were to be implemented.
"Since there would be a cost to this, both at the state and local level, we'd be spending money to address a problem that doesn't exist," he said. "That's what I have an issue with. If the money weren't such an issue right now with the budget so tight we have to be careful how we're spending every penny at the state and local levels. I think we need to spend wisely. To try to fix a problem that doesn't exist is not a good idea."
Koenen isn't against constitutional amendments per se, but said some issues simply don't belong in Constitution and should be handled by the Legislature statutorily.
"I believe anything that can be handled in statutes should be," he said. "There are some, like dedicated funding - that could've been handled in statute, too, although the voters approved it. It's not even a permanent part of the Constitution.. If it's something really important that belongs in the Constitution, that's fine, but something like voter ID can easily be done in statute."
Koenen said the state would also need to make sure everyone who wants to vote has the means of getting an ID. He said he's concerned about the disenfranchisement aspect in that some people, such as minorities or seniors who don't have updated photo IDs, simply would opt not to vote because they don't have or can't afford an official photo ID.
"If money wasn't an issue I'm not that much against it as long we make sure that everybody who wants to vote can get an ID and that if they're of low income, the lack of money wouldn't keep them from getting it,"?he said.
Currently, nine states require photo identification to vote.