A bill requiring voter ID in Minnesota was approved by a Senate committee Wednesday, reigniting a decade-old debate between state leaders.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and approved by the State Government and Elections Committee at a Jan. 27 Senate hearing.
The bill, which Newman said he wrote “in order to protect election integrity in Minnesota,” passed in a 5-3 vote.
The bill would require Minnesotans to present a valid photo ID when voting in-person and absentee. For those who do not own or cannot afford proper identification, a free voter ID card could be obtained.
Individuals who are unable to prove their identity or residence “would be able to cast a provisional ballot, affording the voter a period of time in which they could obtain valid identification,” according to a press release from Senate Republicans.
Newman was behind a 2012 ballot initiative to amend the Minnesota Constitution to require voter ID. The amendment was rejected by voters in a vote of 54% to 46%.
The U.S. Supreme Court case of Crawford v. Marion County, in which the court ruled that a photo ID requirement for voting does not pose an undue burden, serves as precedent for the bill, he said.
Newman quoted former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who said “voter fraud is real, and its effects could determine the outcome of a close election.” Newman pointed out that Minnesota has had several close elections, specifically in mayoral and state legislative races.
Secretary of State Steve Simon testified at Wednesday’s hearing, “respectfully” calling for members to reject the voter ID bill because Minnesota already has a “system that is tested and trusted.” Simon previously voiced his belief that anyone who questions the integrity of the 2020 election is “coating themselves with a shame that will never, ever wash off.”
“This bill, in my judgment, would not do anything to increase our already high level of confidence,” Simon said at the Wednesday hearing. “What would [increase confidence] is for all of us to tell the truth about the election and about the election system.”
Simon argued that the bill would “shut out hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” partly because senior citizens who live in assisted living homes do not own IDs that reflect their correct place of residence.
Seniors who do run into this problem, Newman observed, can take the extra step of providing correct documents to legitimize their ballots.
When asked a “yes or no question” by Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, of whether or not election fraud occurs in every Minnesota election, Simon initially responded, “It is more complicated than that.”
When pressed to answer the “straightforward yes or no question” by Committee Chair Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, Simon shot back and said she was not the “question cop.”
During a contentious hearing on a voter ID bill today, Secretary of State Steve Simon called Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer a "question cop" when she pressed him to answer a question on election fraud. pic.twitter.com/JyWnGFnKGA
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) January 27, 2021
“To a minuscule extent, the answer is yes,” Simon then said.
The bill passed the State Government and Elections Committee and was referred to the committee on transportation for a hearing next week.