Zellers backs away from voting comments

Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers is backing off comments he made during a radio show called “Late Debate” hosted by GOP political consultant Jack Tomczak. On Wednesday night, Zellers said on the air that he considered voting a privilege.

“When you go to even a Burger King or a McDonalds and use your debit card, they’ll ask you to see your ID to be sure that it’s you,” Zellers said.

“Should we have to do that when we vote, something that is one of the most sacred — I think it’s a privilege, it’s not a right. Everybody doesn’t get it because if you go to jail or if you commit some heinous crime your rights are taken away. This is a privilege.”

Zellers backed away from those comments when contacted by MPR News on Thursday. He said he misspoke at 11:45 p.m. after a long day.

“I understand voting is a right in the Consitution,” Zellers said. “I misspoke. It’s not a privilege.”

Zellers made the initial comments as lawmakers are considering a bill that would require people to present photo identification to vote. It’s a contentious issue at the Minnesota Legislature. DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler, a critic of the so-called voter ID bill, criticized Zellers for making the initial comments.

“Voting is not a privilege. It is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution,” Winkler said in a statement.

“This right to choose our government is the founding principle of America. These comments by Speaker Zellers reveal a lack of seriousness about protecting one of our basic constitutional rights. Perhaps this explains why Speaker Zellers is so willing to pass a photo ID requirement that makes voting more difficult for Minnesotans despite our long tradition of civic participation and election integrity.”

You can download the full radio show here.