A proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show a photo identification at the polls has cleared another hurdle in the Minnesota Senate, despite lingering questions about what the new process would actually cost.
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a vote of 9 – 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn’t pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.
“We really don’t have any solid fiscal note on this, and it is speculation,” Robling said.
The Senate bill would allow voters to cast provisional ballots, which wouldn’t be counted until eligibility questions are resolved. Joe Mansky, elections manager for Ramsey County, said that provision would require a parallel process. Mansky said he would need to hire two additional election judges for each polling location.
“Just here in Ramsey County, our biennial cost just for that activity would be about $150,000,” Mansky said. “Typically, we’re about 10 percent of the state’s cost. So, you can do the math on the cost on that.”
Senate Democrats are also still questioning the need for the ID requirement. Sen . Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said the amendment is the first time in Minnesota that he’s ever seen an attempt to take away a person’s right to vote. Cohen described the bill as a solution in search of a problem.
“We hear these vague allegations of what often is stated as people don’t feel very good about the voting system,” Cohen said. “They have concerns about the integrity of their ballot. Maybe we should identify those people and just simply hire a few therapists who could maybe help them through the difficulty they’re having with their feelings about the voting system.”
Sen. Gen Olson, R- Minnetrista cautioned Cohen not to be flippant. Olson said supporters of the bill value the right to vote, and they want to protect the process.
“Nobody’s talking about trying to prevent people from voting,” Olson said. “It’s just being sure that we respect the constitutional provisions of what is required to vote and maintain that integrity.”