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Secretary of State Mark Ritchie tells a Minnesota House committee Thursday he opposes a bill by Rep. Tom Emmer, left, that would require voters to provide photo identification before voting. The bill failed to pass the committee. Staff photo by Scott Wente

Photo ID rejected, but could return

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ST. PAUL - Lawmakers rejected a plan requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, but expect to see the legislation again.

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A Minnesota House committee on Thursday rejected the bill by Rep. Tom Emmer that would have required voters to show photo identification, such as a driver's license, when they vote.

"Without a photo ID requirement as part of our election process ... it calls into question the integrity of the process," said Emmer, R-Delano.

The photo identification proposal is not new at the Capitol and traditionally falls along partisan lines. Republican lawmakers argue it would help prevent voter fraud, but Democrats say it would be a barrier, including for minority, poor and elderly voters who do not have photo identification.

Emmer said his legislation addressed that concern by allowing people without identification to obtain a government-issued voter identification card. It also would have permitted provisional voting if a voter showed up without identification but could provide it within five days of the election.

But the Democrat-controlled State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee voted down the legislation 11-8.

Committee member Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, who has authored many election bills but voted against Emmer's bill, predicted the photo identification proposal will return this legislative session, probably as an amendment to other voting proposals.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and his predecessor, Republican Mary Kiffmeyer, come down on opposite sides of the issue.

Ritchie, a Democrat, told lawmakers that in his recent conversations with election officials around the state, no one has offered evidence of voter impersonation occurring at the polls. Local officials are worried such a requirement would create longer voting lines and cost money, he added.

Kiffmeyer, now a state representative, said the measure would bolster voters' confidence in Minnesota's elections.

"We're talking about making a system and a process better," she said.

Committee member Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said he worried about the plan's impact on senior citizens who have voted for decades without having to provide photo identification.

"I think they've earned the right to vote without extra hassles," he said.

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