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Senate OKs voter ID over objections that some will not vote

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ST. PAUL -- State Sens. David Tomassoni and Keith Langseth worry that elderly Minnesotans like their mothers may not be allowed to vote if the state requires photo identification before casting ballots.

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But photo ID sponsor Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said that it only makes sense to make sure a voter is who he says he is.

"I don't know why anyone would want to walk away from a ballot system that has 100 percent certainty," Limmer said Thursday before senators voted 37-26 in favor of photo ID and other election changes.

The vote was partisan, with Republicans backing Limmer's bill and Democrats against it.

While requiring photo ID was a major portion of the bill, it also would make smaller changes that Democrats say would make it harder to vote, especially for elderly and minority Minnesotans.

"This bill is not about election integrity," Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said. "It's about throwing up roadblocks to the ballot box."

Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said his mother would be one who faces roadblocks.

"If my mother had to go get her picture taken, there is a good chance she would say, 'I am not going to do that, I have been voting all these years, I don't need to do that,'" Tomassoni said.

In rural Minnesota, especially, many election judges have been on duty for years, but under the Limmer bill they still would have to check a photo ID of a neighbor they know well, Langseth said.

Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said that his 95-year-old mother only has an ID because his sister obtained one for her.

Limmer said it is time to modernize the elections system: "There is a big problem in Minnesota."

Minnesotans need photo IDs for bank transactions, to rent movies and to buy drinks, Limmer said, "but heaven forbid if we require someone to present a photo ID to show who you are and where you live."

Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, said her father-in-law died in 2007, but his name remained on the poll roster years later, showing a need for photo ID.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said voters expect elections to be honest.

Thompson said he thinks voters "have to prove who they are who they say they are. That seems to be to be at the root of election integrity."

But Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said that nothing in the bill would fix any problem that has been reported.

Among the few reports of improper voting are of seven felons casting ballots, and Sieben said they can get photo IDs, so the Limmer bill would solve nothing.

"Minnesota has a lot to be proud of in the integrity of its elections," she said.

After senators passed the bill, a similar one passed a House committee Thursday.

Also, since Gov. Mark Dayton is likely to veto photo ID, Republican lawmakers are working on a proposal to put the photo ID requirement in the state Constitution. A governor has no say in constitutional amendments.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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