The Potluck

Senate panel advances voter ID measure after testy debate

By: - January 27, 2021 12:23 pm

Poll workers check in voters from behind plexiglass at Martin Luther King Center in St. Paul Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Photo by Nicole Neri/Minnesota Reformer.

A Minnesota Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a measure that would create a voter identification requirement in the state, less than a decade after Minnesota voters rejected a similar proposal at the ballot in 2012. 

State Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, proposed a new state law that would require voters present identification before registering to vote, and also at the polls. 

Voters without an acceptable form of identification would be given a provisional ballot.

The measure, which advanced 5-3 on a party-line vote, is unlikely to become law this session. The House, controlled by a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party majority, opposes a voter ID law. 

The debate on Wednesday grew heated when Secretary of State Steve Simon, the state’s top elections official, pushed back against the measure, saying it contributes to the mistaken belief that widespread voter fraud cost former President Donald Trump the election. 

Dozens of lawsuits alleging fraud were thrown out in courts across the country, and hand recounts in places like Georgia confirmed that final vote tallies were nearly identical to earlier counts. 

After months of stoking that baseless claim, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol earlier this month in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College votes. The attempted insurrection led to a second impeachment of the president. 

Newman, and state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who chairs the committee, vociferously pushed back against Simon’s testimony, saying they took offense that he cast “aspersions” on their motivation for supporting the legislation. 

During questioning from state Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, who demanded a yes-or-no answer from Simon over whether election fraud happens, Simon attempted to explain that the answer was complicated but before he finished answering, Kiffmeyer interjected. 

“The question is quite straightforward,” Kiffmeyer said.

Simon retorted: “Madam Chair, you are not the question cop.”

Kiffmeyer then admonished Simon, saying he needed to respect the committee process and maintain decorum. 

The measure now moves to the Senate Transportation Committee, which Newman chairs. 

Voting rights advocates say ID requirements are a burden to people who can’t get the paperwork together to obtain one.

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