At a press conference this afternoon, Republican lawmakers said they will push to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot. That amendment would require voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot.
Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake are sponsoring the amendment proposal. Joining them at the press conference to show his support was Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa.
The move to put the issue before the voters comes after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a photo ID bill. Dayton said he would not sign an election bill unless it had broad bipartisan support. While the measure has the strong backing of Republican lawmakers, it is strongly opposed by Democrats.
Kiffmeyer, former Minnesota secretary of state, said it's time to put the issue before the people. She cited a recent Star Tribune poll that found 80 percent of respondents favor requiring photo ID to vote.
"If Gov. Dayton is going to stand in the way of 80 percent of the people, then we'll let the people speak directly through the constitution," she said.
Republicans argue that photo ID will discourage voter fraud and protect the integrity of Minnesota's election system. But Democrats argue that the new requirement would disenfranchise some voters who would find it very difficult to get a photo ID with a current address. That includes senior citizens, low-income residents, people with disabilities and women in battered women's shelters.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, blasted the proposal. He said the fact Republicans are pursuing this measure after recently approving putting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot shows they are not focusing on solving the budget deficit and creating jobs.
"It wasn't enough to target one minority group. Now they want to go after the civil rights of others," he said.
Both Newman and Kiffmeyer said they have no intention of trying to get the measure passed during a special session this summer. Rather, they said they would plan to take it up when the legislature reconvenes in January. The goal would be to get it passed within the first couple of months.