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(VIDEO) Committee Rejects Simon’s Request to Loosen Voter ID Language

The Hopkins and St. Louis Park legislator wanted ‘photograph’ removed from the proposed amendment.

Hopkins and St. Louis Park Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-District 44A) failed in his attempt Thursday to change a proposed constitutional amendment that would require all voters to show ID.

Instead of requiring photo ID, Simon suggested the language refer to voters “whose physical identity or likeness has been verified before voting in a manner prescribed by law.” Removing “photograph” from the amendment would keep it relevant even if technology moves past actual photographs.

“This drivers license is the means to the end. It shouldn’t be the end in itself,” Simon told the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. “I don’t think we should get so hung up on whether a drivers license or photo ID is the be-all, end-all. The key thing is we care that that person is who he or she says he is.”

(In the video above, Simon introduces his proposal at the 40:55 mark.)

Early in the session use electronic poll books—an electronic system that would store photos and information at the polling location. Voters would show up and be verified against the computer, but they wouldn’t necessarily have to bring their own ID.

Voter ID proponents say the measures are necessary to prevent vote fraud. Bill sponsor Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-District 16B), of Big Lake, worried that Simon’s change would allow people to vouch for voters without ID, which she opposes. Although Simon said it wouldn’t do that, Kiffmeyer wasn’t won over.

“I don’t support (Simon’s) amendment. I don’t think it accomplishes the goals we have for voter identification,” Kiffmeyer said.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee voted 8-6 against Simon’s request before approving the voter ID amendment proposal 9-6.

During that hearing, Simon criticized the proposal for using a constitutional amendment process that is difficult to change instead of using routine legislation that can be more easily kept up to date.

He said he doesn’t know of any time when voters have repealed an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, while the prohibition amendment was the only federal constitutional amendment that was repealed.

He also noted that Mississippi is the only state to enshrine voter ID in its constitution of the 31 states that have the requirement.

“One of the disadvantages of a constitutional amendment is we are writing, in essence, in permanent ink,” Simon said.

With the proposal having cleared its first House committee, it will now go before the House Ways and Means Committee.

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