Secretary of State Mark Ritchie outlined a long legislative ‘wish-list’ at a press conference Wednesday morning to improve the state’s electoral process:

· Permitting early voting of 15, 30, or even 45 days before an election to alleviate the burden of absentee ballots on local officials.
· Requiring a narrower margin of victory for statewide elections (one-quarter of one percent, instead of the current margin of one-half of one percent) as well as requiring a candidate to make a recount request to trigger the recount process.
· Instituting a ’21st Century voter registration system’, including online registration, to reduce costs, improve service to voters, and improve the integrity and security of Minnesota’s electoral system.
· Moving the state’s September primary election to earlier in the year – perhaps to June or August – in order to insure absentee general election ballots can get sent overseas in time to those in the military, especially in time-compressed instances where a primary election results in a recount.

Missing from Ritichie’s agenda, however, was any desire for voter ID requirements. Voter ID has become one of the more high-profile issues at the Capitol this session, and is a signature issue of Republican legislator Tom Emmer (19B-Delano).

Rep. Emmer has asked Ritichie to testify before the State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee on Thursday morning when the Voter Integrity Act of 2009 legislation will be on the table. Emmer co-authored the Act with fellow Republican Representative and former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer (16B-Big Lake).

During his press conference on Wednesday, Ritchie was very cool to the idea of voter IDs:

“I’m very interested to hear if there are any new arguments for this, but it’s been debated every year and even the Bush administration says this would be a very bad thing for our senior citizens. We’ve got 140,000 people, almost all senior citizens, without IDs.

Secretary Ritchie even went so far as to say that there is no need for the Act’s requirements of a state-issued photo ID because his research has not found a documented instance of such voter fraud in the history of the state:

“The only argument that’s ever made is that this would prevent voter impersonation and I’ve looked through 150 years of Minnesota voting history and haven’t found one case.

Minnesota politics is a far cry from Chicago politics, to be sure, but, one has to wonder, is the integrity of the state’s voting system this clean?

Kiffmeyer was in attendance at Ritchie’s press conference, and Smart Politics asked her how she and her caucus would use the overwhelming public support for voter IDs in Minnesota to leverage the issue in the House to get the bill out of committee for a floor vote:

“They won’t let it come to vote because they know there is that groundswell. So that makes you kind of wonder sometimes, why are they stopping it, you know? Because the reality is that it is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled it Constitutional…I think the question to be asked is, ‘What are you afraid of?’

Ritchie intimated that cost is one reason against adopting the Act.

“We have now determined how much that the proposals that are floating will cost. And it is millions for all the people, the locals, the state, everybody involved.

Kiffmeyer, however, stated the cost to the state would not be an issue, and that, while she was Secretary of State, she was “Willing to absorb the cost of it into my office with the free ID.

With approximately three-quarters of Minnesotans in favor of voter ID, Smart Politics can only deduce there must be strategic, political reasons why the DFL and Mark Ritchie do not want such legislation passed.

As for what those strategic reasons might be, perhaps Kiffmeyer will get an answer to her question on Thursday morning.


  1. Dennis on February 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

    What is Ritchie afraid of? Answer: ACORN

  2. CommonSenseRambler on February 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Pass voter ID requirement. You can’t go anywhere for any length of time without being required to show ID. To suggest it’s a burden on elderly and minorities is a cheap, lame discriminatory claim.

    What’s makes them so special?
    Ritchie is clearly afraid of integrity

  3. Donavon Cawley on February 12, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    The argument being presented in this article seems to be that the DFL is afraid of disenfranchising their own constituents, and will thus prevent good policy from passing into law.

    But the flip side of this is that the Republicans are perfectly aware of the fact that Voter ID disenfranchises voters, and they do not care because those who will be prevented from voting are not their constituents.

    Now, which sounds more cynical and strategic to you?

  4. Steve P on February 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    While I disagree with almost all of Ms. Kiffmeyer’s far right-wing positions, I have no quibbles with this one. Requiring and obtaining a state-issued ID is no more disenfranchising than getting a driver’s license. Perhaps even less so, since the Bureau isn’t required to check the applicant’s driving record.

    A state-issued ID card requires no more information or documentation than a state-issued driver’s license does. It also costs less than a driver’s license. When I took my mother to the License Bureau to trade her driver’s license for an ID, it cost something around $8.

    This issue is a red herring of the first order. Mr. Ritchie should be ashamed of himself for this stance.

  5. Cam Murray on February 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Voting is a right guaranteed in the constitution, driving is not, this fact nullifies the standard argument presented by others, courts have ruled you have to be as open as possible allowing people to exercise their rights. Besides older people getting out and getting IDs younger people also don’t always have driver’s licenses. My oldest daughter was 20 before she got her’s and my youngest is 18 and still does not have her’s. They are both politically active but in college and have not needed cars. Since there is no documented violation of voter identity, thus no problem, why incur the cost and known issues with disenfranchisement? Unless you have another agenda you can disguise under this banner?

  6. Bill Jungbauer on February 12, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I attended the Thursday morning committee hearing and it was clear from the start that it did not have much of a chance. The body language of Representative Poppe was that of someone who felt defensive and introverted. Her arms were crossed tight most of the hearing.

    Marquart’s questioning of Emmer verged on hostile and Winkler was not any friendlier. It was obvious to me that at least those three had decided to vote no before the hearing ever began.

  7. Keith Ford on February 13, 2009 at 8:03 am

    In all this cynical commentary, the blogger seems to ignore the question of whether requiring a picture ID is good public policy.Why oppose this bill? Because it unquestionably imposes a burden on some people (my elderly, legally blind and widowed mother has no current driver license and going to get an ID is not easy — impossible? No. Easy? No).

    That would be okay if there were an over-riding public purpose reason to impose a burden but as Ritchie says — show me one example in Minnesota of voter fraud that a voter ID would stop.

  8. Joyce Anderson on February 13, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    What a great idea! Require picture id’s for voters. Viola! Another fee that Republicans can raise and still claim that they have not raised taxes.
    And at the same time the added requirement makes an unfamiliar process even more so and possibly disenfranchises those most likely to vote against them. You have to give them credit – they think ahead and plan their strategies to benefit only the GOP, perfectly and patiently.
    After all, since there has never been a case of voter fraud in Minnesota the id’s are of no benefit to the election process.

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